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Spartan soldier (Halo) with heavy shotgun

Master Chief John-117 and other Spartans

(Literary version)


Context

Halo is a Xbox, sci-fi themed first-person shooter video game. It was hugely successful, and genre-defining during the 2000s. This led to spin-off media, including novels.

The central characters are the Spartans, a breed of towering super-soldiers who may be humanity’s last chance against grave alien threats.

This profile concerns the Spartans from the Halo *novels*, so there are significant discrepancies with the video game version, particularly in terms of the Spartans’ capabilities.


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Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None (see History for details).
  • Group Affiliation: United Nations Space Command.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: Varies (2.05m/6’9” average) Weight: Varies (130kg/285 lbs average) Age: 41 as of 2552 (All Spartans were born in 2511).
  • Eyes: Varies Hair: Varies


Powers and Abilities

The Spartans are superbly trained soldiers who have gone surgical and genetic enhancement. These enhancements included:

  • Carbide ceramic ossification to strengthen their bones.
  • Muscular enhancement injections.
  • Catalytic thyroid implants to increase musculo-skeletal growth (in DC Heroes terms STR/BOD, Jumping, Skin Armor).
  • Occipital capillary reversal to enhance their eyesight (Telescopic Vision, Ultra Vision).
  • Superconducting fibrification of neural dendrites to improve intelligence and reaction times (DEX/INT, Superspeed).

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After enhancement, the Spartans could lift three times their own body weight and throw punches hard enough to dent armor plate. Their reflexes had been so greatly boosted that everything appeared to move in slow motion to them and they could run at up to 55 kph (34 mph).

The Spartans’ ability to process information was also improved, allowing them to process information at very high speeds. John-117 was able to easily derive mathematical formulas in his head after the enhancement even though he wasn’t very good at math beforehand.

These traits made the SPARTAN-IIs frighteningly effective combat machines. In his first unarmed sparring match after enhancement, John-117 effortlessly crippled or killed four Special Forces Shock Troopers in a matter of seconds.


Video

For visuals, here’s a compilation of Halo trailers in storyline order, showing the stuff described in this entry.


History

Between 2000 AD and 2400 AD, humanity expanded beyond the solar system, establishing many colonies throughout the Western Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. As settled space expanded, it became increasingly difficult for Earth to maintain control.

By the late 2400s, the United Nations Space Command’s (UNSC) Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) predicted that massive rebellion would sweep the Outer Colonies by the mid 2500s. ONI decided that a force of elite soldiers that could infiltrate and destroy hidden rebel bases was essential to suppressing insurrection in the Outer Colonies.

Super-soldiers

In 2491 the ONI began Project ORION to create the supersoldiers that ONI recommended. The first program under Project ORION was Project SPARTAN. The details of Project SPARTAN remain a mystery, though it was successful enough to spawn a successor. In 2517 the ONI decided to move to the next stage with Project SPARTAN II.

Project SPARTAN II began by carefully screening the children of every human colony. The ONI selected 75 six-year-olds who demonstrated the highest physical and mental potential as well as the specific genetic traits needed for Project SPARTAN’s planned enhancement program. The children were secretly taken out of their homes and brought to the UNSC Fleet Command (FLEETCOM) base on the planet Reach.

They were told that they had been drafted by the UNSC and that Reach was their new home. Their last names were replaced with three-number subject designations, leaving them with names like John-117 and Kelly-087.

The children’s families had no idea that the children had been taken. The Project SPARTAN II subjects had all been replaced with flash-grown clones with implanted memories.

The UNSC had left the clones with the families and taken the children rather than simply keeping the clones because the cloning and imprinting process at the time invariably left the clones with progressive neurological disorders.

A new breed

For the next eight years, the SPARTAN IIs (normally referred to simply as the Spartans) received intense military training. They were taking part in basic field exercises by the age of eight. John-117 quickly became the leader of the Spartans and eventually given the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer.

He was not the fastest, strongest, or smartest Spartan, but he was the bravest and luckiest. Frederic-104 earned a place as the second in overall command and the rank of Senior Petty Officer. John believed that Frederic was just as capable as he was, but came in second only because he did not want the attention that came with being first.

Other standouts included Kelly-087 (the swiftest and most agile of the Spartans), Linda-058 (the Spartans’ finest sniper), and Samuel-034 (the physically strongest of the Spartans).

By the age of 14 in the year 2525, the first stage of their training was complete. Physically, the Spartans were the equivalent of 18-year-old Olympic athletes and academically they were equal to Naval Academy Honors graduates. Accordingly, they were deemed ready for the next step.

Major enhancements

A series of surgical and biological enhancements was then applied to the Spartans. Not all of the youths benefited from the enhancements. 30 of them were killed outright by side-effects of the procedures.

Another 12 were rendered incapable of field duty due to crippling physical defects. These Spartans still retained their formidable intelligence and knowledge and contributed greatly to the UNSC in later years as ONI analysts.

33 Spartans survived the process without defects. In fact, the enhancements had synergistic effects even greater than the Project SPARTAN scientists had hoped.

After adjusting to their enhancements, the Spartans were given their first mission. They were tasked with infiltrating a rebel transport and riding it to the rebel’s asteroid base, where the Spartans would then signal UNSC forces to move in. A handful of Spartans selected and led by Squad Leader John-117 carried out the mission with little difficulty.

The Covenant comes in

Soon after this mission, the UNSC had its first encounter with the Covenant, an alien race with technology much more advanced than humanity’s.

The Covenant announced their presence with an apparently unprovoked attack on a human colony. The UNSC vessels present barely defeated the Covenant force despite outnumbering them by a considerable margin. This incident spurred ONI to move Project SPARTAN-II to its final phase, Project MJOLNIR, in which the Spartans would be given the latest power armor  designed by the UNSC.

The Covenant attacked the Project MJOLNIR research facility on Chi Ceti 4 while the Spartans were being outfitted with the MJOLNIR power armor. The newly-armored supermen were able to help repel the attack by boarding and destroying one of the Covenant ships, albeit at the cost of the first Spartan to fall in battle, Samuel-034.

From 2525 to 2552, the Spartans would be dispersed across the known worlds, working alone or in small groups to defend human worlds from the Covenant. Perversely, while the Spartans found themselves battling the Covenant, their alien enemies would fulfill the Spartans’ original mission to suppress rebellion in the Outer Colonies, albeit by providing a common foe for humanity.

Chased from the stars

Though the Spartans could turn the tide of battle against the Covenant on the ground, the Covenant won the more critical orbital battles. Consequently, humanity found itself whittled down from a vast network of worlds to a few strongholds.

Despite being constantly engaged with Covenant forces for the next 27 years, only three Spartans were killed (including Samuel-034, noted above) and only one was rendered unfit for field duty due to injury. The Spartans remained a covert group for most of this time, their very existence concealed from the public.

With morale flagging in the later years of the war against the Covenant, the UNSC decided to make the Spartans’ existence public in 2549. This was a successful public relations strategy, giving the remnants of humanity heroes to rally around.

The Spartans’ true origins remained top secret though. Most people assumed that the Spartans are just highly skilled soldiers who received their superhuman physical abilities from their power armor. As part of the UNSC’s use of the Spartans to maintain morale, any Spartans who fell in battle were listed as MIA rather than KIA. This promoted the idea that “Spartans never die.”

Strategic strike

In 2552 the remaining Spartans (except for three who were engaged in battles too far away for them to be easily recalled) were convened in one spot for the first time since they had received their armor on Chi Ceti 4. They met at the UNSC FLEETCOM complex on Reach.

The UNSC was tasking them with an extraordinarily dangerous and desperate mission. The Spartans were ordered to seize a Covenant ship, take control of it, fly it to the Covenant homeworld, and capture the Covenant leadership.

In order to facilitate this mission, John-117 was being given the first set of upgraded MJOLNIR armor, which had been enhanced with a force field reverse-engineered from Covenant technology. John’s armor had also been equipped with extra computer memory storage sufficient to house a “smart” AI.

(“Dumb” AIs are extremely capable in a single area of expertise but are programmed with limiters that dampen their flexibility and creativity. “Smart” AIs are much more broadly intelligent and intuitive, but will inevitably go rampant , descending into insanity and withdrawing from reality.)

Cortana

Cortana was the AI assigned to help the Spartans capture a Covenant vessel. She specialized in computer security and code cracking and also had the latest programs for translating the Covenant language. Cortana’s mind used Dr. Halsey, the scientific leader of Project SPARTAN, as a template and had some of Halsey’s maternal feelings toward the Spartans.

Accordingly, she studied the Spartans’ records and knew the truth of their origins. Most significantly she knew that they had been taken from their family without their relatives’ knowledge or consent. Cortana has not shared this information with any of the Spartans yet.

The Spartans’ mission was scrubbed when the Covenant launched a surprise attack on Reach. Two crises arose during the battle of Reach.

The battle of Reach

The Covenant was able to land ground forces on Reach that began moving toward the planetary defense generators. If those generators were disabled, Reach would fall.

At the same time, the UNSC Circumference, which was docked for repairs, sent out a distress signal that it was unable to enact the Cole Protocol and erase its NAV database. This meant that if the Covenant could capture it, they would get the Slipstream coordinates for Earth.

John-117, James, and Linda-058 went to destroy the navigation database on the Circumference, while the rest of the Spartans headed planetside to join the ground forces protecting the defense generators.

(There is a discrepancy in the number of the Spartans at Reach. There were 33 Spartans who emerged intact from the enhancement process. Subtracting the three dead Spartans and the one inactive Spartan equals 29 remaining Spartans. Three other Spartans were too far away to return to Reach, which means that 26 Spartans should have been present there. John, James, and Linda went on their side mission during the Battle of Reach, which should leave 23 in the remaining group.)

(However, there were 27 Spartans in the group that went to Reach. This is not of major significance, beyond opening the possibility that the Spartans once reported to have been absent were in fact present and will thus not be appearing later as arrivals from distant combat theatres.)

(It is possible that the one Spartan listed as too badly injured to serve on active duty was James, who had lost an arm during an earlier battle? He served without noticeable handicap at Reach, which may suggest that his arm was eventually replaced with a prosthetic allowing him to return to active duty.)

Halo

The Master Chief’s contingent succeeded in their mission, though James was lost in space above Reach (sent tumbling helplessly into the void after an unfortunate blow disabled his thruster pack) and Linda was so badly injured that she had to be placed in stasis until advanced medical assistance could be provided. The other Spartans’ dropship was shot down entering Reach’s atmosphere.

Believing that the other Spartans were dead and Reach was lost, John-117 and the UNSC vessel Pillar of Autumn fled the scene. They made what they believed to be a random Slipstream jump to escape pursuit. In actuality, Cortana had secretly programmed in a destination based on analysis of intel gathered from previous operations against the Covenant.

The Pillar of Autumn emerged near the ancient construct dubbed Halo. Halo was a ring 11,000 miles in diameter with a habitable surface on the inner side. The Pillar of Autumn was attacked by Covenant forces already present in the system and crash-landed on Halo.

The fighting between the human and Covenant forces on Halo inadvertently released the Flood. The Flood is a race of parasitic organisms that were imprisoned for study on Halo by that construct’s ancient creators.

The Flood

In response to the release of the Flood, Halo’s robotic crew attempted to activate the giant construct. In tandem with other identical constructs across the galaxy, Halo would release a blast of energy sufficient to kill all life that the Flood could feed upon in order to contain their threat.

John-117 and Cortana managed to interrupt the galaxy-sterilization process and stop the spread of the Flood by overloading the Pillar of Autumn’s nuclear reactors — the resulting explosion destroyed Halo. John-117 escaped the blast in a Longsword aerospace fighter.

In the aftermath, John-117 found a few survivors of the Pillar’s crew in a dropship that had also fled Halo. Thanks in large measure to Cortana’s ability to hack Covenant computer systems, the group was able to board and capture the Ascendant Justice, a Covenant flagship that had come to investigate Halo.

The value of an entire ship of advanced Covenant technology was obvious, but the group could not head back to Earth with the vessel given possibility of the Covenant somehow tracking their flagship and discovering Earth’s location.

They decided to return to Reach in hopes of finding a salvageable human vessel, in which case they could hide the captured ship while they retrieved engineering specialists from Earth to examine the Covenant flagship.

Return to Reach

Arriving at Reach, the Pillar of Autumn’s survivors managed to accomplish their mission and more. The surviving human forces on Reach, including several Spartans, were rescued and an artifact of unknown purpose but of great value to the Covenant was retrieved.

After making the UNSC vessel Gettysburgh operational again and combining the information they had gathered, the combined survivors of Halo and Reach undertook a desperate mission. Their target was the local base of Covenant activity, an enormous space station called Unyielding Heirophant.

Though it cost them their captured Covenant vessel, they managed to destroy Heirophant and devastate the Covenant fleet in orbit around the station.

Return to Earth

Having delayed the Covenant campaign, the victorious remnants of the group began their return voyage to Earth with the vital enemy intelligence they had gathered. Out of the assembled Spartans at Reach, only a few were still alive: John-113, Fred-104, Linda-058, and Will-043.

Kelly-087 had also survived, but had been placed in stasis due to debilitating injuries received on Reach and then taken away by Dr. Halsey on a secret mission after the group left Reach. While the other Spartans knew that Halsey had left with Kelly and trusted the doctor to take care of their comrade, there was no clue left as to Halsey’s intentions.


Description

All of the Spartans are large, very physically fit individuals with the bearing of professional soldiers. Since they spend most of their time in their armor, the Spartans are usually very pale-skinned.

The MJOLNIR armor is a matte black body sheath with iridescent green plate armor over the legs, arms and torso, topped off with a helmet of the same material as the plate armor with a reflective gold visor. Several witnesses have remarked on the armored Spartans looking like Greek gods of war.


Personality

Having been raised from a very early age in a strict military training environment, the Spartans tend to be very direct and all-business. Spartans are used to responding to other people in one of three ways depending on what category they fall into — superior officers are to be obeyed, fellow soldiers are to be assisted, and threats are to be neutralized.

Consequently, the Spartans are sometimes slightly bemused by more complicated social circumstances such as interacting with civilians and intelligence agents (though not enough to warrant a Drawback).

Spartans are slightly sociopathic. A Spartan might ponder whether it is justified to execute human rebels simply because they are defined as an enemy, but such thoughts are a matter of momentary intellectual curiosity. No Spartan has ever been sufficiently concerned about such thoughts to bother even voicing them aloud.

In training exercises against fellow UNSC members, Spartans will not hesitate to seriously injure or kill other troops if necessary.

They will avoid inflicting serious injury on those other troops if it is not inconvenient to do so, but only out of concern for preserving the valuable resource of military manpower.

This trait has lessened slightly over the years; John-117 found himself contemplating that after serving for so long among other humans against an alien enemy, he was no longer sure that he could execute a fellow human being unless he knew there was a good reason for the order.

The superhuman elite

Other troops are sometimes resentful of Spartans because the supersoldiers openly regard other soldiers as liabilities. This is strictly a factual assessment – even elite non-augmented troops are far less capable than the Spartans. It does not reflect any arrogance or inherent disdain for non-augmented humans on the Spartans’ part.

On the contrary, the Spartans are usually very respectful and polite towards others in their own reserved way, which often eases any hurt feelings over perceived snubs. The Spartans take their responsibility to protect civilians and other UNSC troops seriously and will work to accomplish that objective while staying within the parameters of their current mission.

Since the Spartans are usually tasked with critical missions and are the most capable ground troops in any given combat theatre, they will often assume local ground command upon arrival. Howbeit, they are still subject to the orders of superior officers.

They will do this under the auspices of NavSpecWep (Naval Special Weapons Division) and have all personnel report through their chain of command.

Detached

To maintain optimum operational efficiency, the Spartans do not micromanage when commanding larger operations. They will instead coordinate with local commanders to gather proper intel and pass on what they know before developing a plan with those commanders and ensuring that everyone has the necessary information to do their part.

As noted more generally above, the Spartans’ respect for other commanding officers in their operations usually alleviates any tensions that might otherwise result from their abrupt assumption of command. Keeping everyone informed and including them in planning also earns them extra admiration from the rank and file, who are all too often excluded from such matters.


Quotes

John-117: “As of 0900 Standard Military time, NavSpecWep is assuming control of this operation. All Marine personnel now report through our chain of command.”

Fred-104: “Team Alpha — we’re going to that valley to kill everything that isn’t human.”

Linda-058: “You’re good so far. There are Elites, but they’re unarmed. No, wait. A Hunter pair is advancing on your position. Stand by. Threat neutralized. The rest are scattering. Banshees approaching. I’m moving.”

Fred-104: “This isn’t so bad. The last insertion I made, we hit the ground before the dropship. Now, *that* was a rough ride.”

John-117: “That’s all any of us ask for, sir : A chance to serve.”


DC Universe History

After seeing Kilowog’s success with genetically enhancing and armoring the Rocket Reds for the Russians, the United States decided that they needed a similar system. The Spartans were the result.

The Spartans were on a training exercise in Australia when the Invasion began. The Spartans fought the landing Alliance forces in Australia and managed to delay their establishment of a beachhead long enough for Earth’s superheroes to respond and contain the Alliance. That battle cost the lives of almost every Spartan.

The Master Chief survived and has served as a superhuman agent of the US military in various capacities, depending on the politics of the time and which agencies were active. He would have definitely worked with both Checkmate and the DEO.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Typical Spartan

Dex: 08 Str: 06 Bod: 06 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 07 Wil: 08 Min: 08 Occupation: Spartan Soldier
Inf: 05 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 29 HP: 050

Powers:
Jumping: 02, Radio Communication: 01, Skin Armor: 01 Superspeed: 05, Telepathy: 04, Telescopic Vision: 01, Ultra Vision: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers except Radio Communication are Form Functions (+1FC).
  • Skin Armor is only effective against blunt trauma (punches, impacts from blunt objects, concussion from explosions, etc.), but not projectiles or sharp objects (knives, bullets, shrapnel, etc.) (-2FC).
  • Superspeed cannot reduce the time needed to perform Physical actions ; Mental tasks are not affected by this limitation (-1FC).
  • Radio Communication represents the neural lace implanted into all UNSC personnel ; it only works on UNSC computers and vehicles designed to interface with neural lace implants and can only be used to exchange data (-1FC).
  • Radio Communication is Scrambled and is considered to be at 06 APs for that purpose (+2FC).

Skills: Acrobatics: 08*, Gadgetry: 04, Martial Artist: 08*, Medicine (First Aid): 07*, Military Science: 07*, Thief (Stealth): 08*, Vehicles: 08*, Weaponry: 08*

Notes:
Most Spartans had a few additional APs in Skills and Attributes. Examples include:

  • Master Chief John-117: DEX (and DEX-Linked Skills) 09, INF 07, AUR 07, Init 32, 85 HPs, Military Science (Field Command) 09, Leadership, Schtick (Paired Firearms), Connection (Cortana, High).
  • Chief Frederic “Fred”-104: INT (and INT-Linked Skills) 08, Init 30, 65 HPs, Thief*: 08, Leadership.
  • Kelly-087: DEX (and DEX-Linked Skills) 10, INFL 07, Init 33, 65 HPs, Superspeed 06, Schtick (Paired Firearms).
  • Linda-058: Weaponry (Sniper Rifles): 12.
  • Samuel-034: STR 07, BOD 07.

Advantages:
Credentials (UNSC, Low), Expertise (Covenant ground forces), Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Popularity, Scholar (Improvised Equipment), Sharp Eye.

Connections:
Fellow Spartans (High), Dr. Halsey, head of Project SPARTAN II (High).

Drawbacks:
Dark Secret (true origins), SIA (Following orders).


This… is… Sparta !

Though the Spartans’ existence was revealed to the public in 2549, they are still assumed to be soldiers who volunteered for augmentation.

The Dark Secret above refers to their actual origins as children who were secretly kidnapped and inducted into the Spartan program by the UNSC. Exposure of this secret would definitely result in backlash against the UNSC, though it is hard to predict how it would affect the way that the Spartans themselves would be seen by the public.


Scholar: Improvised Equipment

The Spartans frequently use their Scholar to build traps such as fougasses , emptied storage canisters filled with explosives and shrapnel and used as extra-large claymore mines. Assembling these makeshift explosives usually takes no more than two hours (11 APs) assuming the Spartan in question is at a location with adequate supplies, such as a supply dumb or a vehicle depot.

The Spartan then makes a Military Science (Demolitions) Check to see if he has successfully constructed the device, with the OV/RV equal to APs of Bomb the Spartan wants the device to have minus the 2CS for the Scholar. Success means the fougasse was built properly, with an R# equal to 8 minus the RAPs received.

Failure means something is wrong with the bomb and it simply will not detonate when triggered; if the GM chooses, the Spartan may not be aware that the bomb has a problem until he attempts to set it off.

The Improvised Equipment Scholar is not limited to explosives alone. Spartans have built other materials such as camouflage suits and woven rope even with little in the way of useful materials available. The GM can work out such efforts by assigning an appropriate OV/RV from the Universal Modifier Chart and having the Spartan roll against it using his Gadgetry Skill, factoring in the Scholar bonus.


Combat Evolved

The Halo novels are set in the Gritty Genre. The attributes of the humans in the Halo novels are closer to Realistic, with even the best and the brightest only having one or two Attributes and a few Skills as high as the 5-6 AP range (and the very best having a single Attribute and/or skill at 7-8 APs).

Consequently, even though most of the Spartans’ stats are only at the high end of average for skilled non-superpowered heroes, they seem like superhuman demigods in their native setting. This impression is bolstered by the benefits they enjoy by use of the MJOLNIR armor.

In a more conventional superhero universe the Spartans would still be impressive, especially to the average citizen. The Spartans would not have the uniquely powerful mystique that they do in their own universe though.


Equipment

The Spartans use the same weaponry and vehicles as other UNSC troops. These items are described in the UNSC Troops and Equipment writeup.

In addition to their standard weaponry, the Spartans commonly carry additional items relating to their specific specialties. Intrusion specialists will carry lock breakers and portable computer pads with remote links, field medics will carry emergency surgical kits, etc. These items will usually not need their own stats ; just assume that the Spartans have the necessary tools to use the relevant Skills without penalty.

Spartans use fiber-optic probes to inspect areas before entry on infiltration missions. These items look like thick cords with an interface plug at one end and a lens at the other end. The Spartan plugs the probe into his armor and can then manipulate it to extend through small openings and view the area beyond.

The probes are difficult to spot unless someone is actively looking for them. Anyone within 1 AP (20 ft) might spot the probe by happenstance on a Perception Check against an OV/RV of 08/08 ; if deliberately searching for such a probe, the OV/RV drops to 04/04.

The Spartans also make frequent use of on-site procurement i.e., grabbing whatever weaponry and equipment they find around them and putting it to use.

And of course they wear MJOLNIR POWER ARMOR – see the separate write-up.


Previous Statistics

Prior to 2549, the Spartans’ existence was classified. During that time, they all had Secret ID and did not have Popularity.

By Roy Cowan.

Source of Character: Halo novels (The Fall of Reach, The Flood, First Strike).

Helper(s): Mark A. Ayen for his write-up of the video game version of Master Chief.

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