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Tripod Terror

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And this Thing! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees and smashing them aside its wallowing career; a walking engine of glittering metal, reeling now across the heather, articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.

The second most iconic of alien vehicles after the Flying Saucer, Rule of Three comes into play for the Alien Invasion, when our new overlords bring out their army of Three-Legged Humongous Mecha. This may also be here to induce What Measure Is a Non-Human? or earthly being, as most animals tend to have even numbers of legs.

The Ur-Example is undoubtedly The War of the Worlds (1898), and its many adaptations since. Compare and contrast to Spider Tank. A Sub-Trope of Starfish Robots.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Olmecs' three-legged flying machine in The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which is also capable of walking.
  • The Invaders in Occult Academy will use them to crush Mankind.
  • Gundam:
    • The massive Zeon wonderweapon Apsaras 3 in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team has three dangerously spindly-looking retractable legs, though it usually floats through the air using an exotic particle-based flight system, giving it a strong resemblance to both the book and 1953 movie versions of the classic Martian Fighting Machines.
    • The Mobile Suit Gundam SEED spinoff manga Delta Astray has the Guardshell, which can change from a tripod to a Gundam-like form that uses the tripod's carapace as a giant yo-yo. Considering it was designed and piloted by a Martian, it's definitely a Shout-Out to War of the Worlds.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, also taking place on Mars, features the Mobile Workers, small, futuristic tanks with the legs ending in wheels. The 'terror' goes in two directions here, though - while Mobile Workers are notorious for their ability to shred infantry and break up riots, they're little more than tin-plated coffins if a mobile suit shows up. However, they're surprisingly effective for anti-personnel purpose, as shown by how Gjallarhorn dispatch the Dort protestants via a Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing's hotly Contested Sequel Frozen Teardrop, also taking place on the red planet, gets in on the act with an upgraded version of Epyon that turns into a three headed dragon.
  • The Deucalion Kataphrakt in Aldnoah.Zero was a three-legged machine, though it preferred to float thanks to its anti-gravity engines.

    Comic Books 
  • Mr. Hyde lampshades the design of the Tripods during the Martian Invasion in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2. He then proceeds to deconstruct the trope by commenting that there's a good reason why no animals have only three legs, and demonstrates this reason by breaking one tripod's legs, causing the thing to fall over. He then breaks the cockpit open and eats the horrified Martian inside.
  • Sonic X features Tripods in #7 and #12.
  • Scarlet Traces, being a fansequel to The War of the Worlds (1898).
  • The Dark horse comic version of The War of the Worlds made the tripods more fearsome than the previously known (such as the page image).
    "That thing I saw! How can I describe it?"
  • When Martians from Killraven's reality invade the mainstream Marvel Universe, they arrive in giant tripods.

    Fan Works 
  • Deconstructed in Slipping Between Worlds. A group of "visitors" from Roundworld (Earth) provoke a mass panic that Ankh-Morpork is being invaded by pitiless alien conquerors. The possibility of a Slight Disagreement of the Worlds is explored in Discworld style and includes stolid Discworlders debating the self-evident drawbacks of top-heavy tripod war machines. A farmer looks down at a cattle grid and nods, saying "I'd like to see 'un get over this 'un!", while a Man in a Pub smugly discusses how unbalanced a tripod would be to — for example, a troll or a golem grabbing one leg and flipping it over. "Sides, your golem. Made out of invulnerable heat-resistant ceramic. Your troll. Fire a death ray at him, just makes him dumber and angrier. Them tripods is just scrap metal either way!"

    Films — Animation 
  • The Boxtrolls: Snatcher builds one, with the help of captured Boxtrolls, to break into the Boxtroll lair and round up the rest.
  • Lightning McQueen has a dream where he stars in a movie about spark plug tripods (actually "quads", as they have four legs) destroying the city in Cars.
  • In War of the Servers, the Mingepods aren't even really tripods. They have two front wheels, and a third "leg" with another two wheels on it. Thus, while they're technically tripods (three 'legs') they still have four points of contact.
  • As War of the Worlds: Goliath is a sequel to the Trope Maker, naturally the Martian tripods reappear. However, this film supposes that humanity reversed-engineered leftover Martian tech from the original invasion and have used it to create a Diesel Punk world full of human-built tripods armed with human-built heat rays, which become major centerpieces of the action when a second Martian invasion takes place.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Even the "floating" Martian war machines from The War of the Worlds (1953) have, if you look closely, three repulsors keeping it hovering in the air. (They were originally planned to have the usual tripod legs when Ray Harryhausen was attached to bring the tentacled Martians and their machines to life via stop motion animation, but the amount of money available and the limited technology of the day led them to be changed to fit a Flying Saucer motif.)
  • Scary Movie 4 attempts to spoof The War of the Worlds with the triPods, which resemble an iPod on three legs with a "Destroy Humanity" playlist.
  • Even Star Wars is not exempt from this.
    • Though not as huge as most other examples, the Droidekas are functionally tripods when they're not rolling around as wheels. They aren't meant to move around much like this, though; it's mostly just to steady them, like an actual tripod.
    • The Walkers in the original trilogy were inspired by the War of the Worlds tripods.
    • The AT-AP (All-Terrain Attack Pod) Walker seen in Revenge of the Sith is a tripod. However, the third leg is retractable — it primarily serves to steady the Walker when using its artillery cannon.
    • Aside from being four-legged, the spider droid matches the Wellsian Martian fighting machine, right down to the heat ray. Only the traditional black-smoke bomb launcher (which rarely appears outside Wells' literary masterpiece) was replaced by an anti-personnel blaster cannon.
    • In a more direct homage to The War of the Worlds, we have the Separatists' Octuptarra tri-droids, which come in the smaller combat tri-droid variant and the much larger magna tri-Droid variant.
    • R2-D2 himself is tripodal, although his supporting struts don't bend, and he rolls rather than walks.
  • Lost in Space features a race of insectoid creatures with this flaw. The DVD commentary acknowledges this, admitting that nature would never design anything like this because of the off-balance problem.

  • The War of the Worlds (1898) is the Trope Maker, and arguably the Trope Codifier as well.
  • The Tripods features, well, what you might expect. (The aliens that pilot them also have three legs.) John Christopher essentially filed the serial numbers off of Wells' Martians and depicted what the world might be like if their initial invasion had been successful. He also does a fair job of justifying the impracticality of the 3-legged design; the number 3 appears to be integral to the culture of the Masters, presumably as a consequence of their biology (as well as 3 legs they also have 3 tentacles and 3 eyes) and as well as tripodal design of their vehicles they also incorporate triangles and pyramids into their architecture and technology at every opportunity.
  • Rendezvous with Rama features three-legged biots used as a sort of mobile sensor. These move very fast by pivoting around on one leg, using each of them in alternation, and reversing the direction of rotation from time to time. As a matter of fact, a three-part symmetry is central to all things Raman. Unlike many of the examples on this page, they're harmless, unless you cut into one's power-cell while dissecting its corpse.
  • Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars features creatures with these — they are meant to be roughly the Martians from The War of the Worlds (1898), had they lived on the same Planet Mars as the Martians from John Carter of Mars, the Martians from "A Martian Odyssey", the Martians from Out of the Silent Planet and the Martians from Flash Gordon. Niven calls them the Softfingers or Astronomers, depending on who is talking about them.
  • In Warstrider, the tripods are actually the humans' titular mecha.
  • The Day of the Triffids goes into a bit of detail about how the titular walking plants move, comparing them to a man on crutches and specifically noting that it's not an especially fast or stable method of locomotion. Being plants, of course, they don't really need to move very often or over a great distance.
  • Expedition has a number of tripodal creatures, including the Sac Back, Beach Loper, and the Groveback (a gigantic animal that goes about on two legs and a massive supporting tail).
  • In Alien in a Small Town, the Jan and most of the animals from their world have trilateral symmetry. The Jan are cone-shaped, with three stumpy legs underneath and three arms sprouting out the top, two ending in hands and one in an eye. Like Rama's biots, they revolve as they walk.
  • The Idirans in Consider Phlebas have three legs.

  • The album cover for Doctor Steel's album, People of Earth, shows an attack by giant tripod robots reminiscent of The War of the Worlds - only in the foreground it shows Dr. Steel controlling them. (A similar tripod is seen in the background of the album art for The Dr. Steel Read-A-Long.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech advanced to the point where the 135 ton Ares, and its slightly smaller precursor, the 125 ton Poseidon, have been added to the game as the first two tripod mechs. Players have yet to decide if the advantages they have in firepower, armor, and their three-person cockpits make up for their extremely low speed. Beyond those two monsters, though, there are rules for constructing tripodal mechs (as well as one canon design that's a mere 75 tons, the Triskeleon). They get bonuses to stability and can easily change direction compared to standard designs, but with the added tonnage cost of the extra leg and the parts needed to control it they're a bit more limited in overall firepower than a standard bipedal mech of the same size and speed would be.
  • In Monsterpocalypse, the Martian Menace faction has some figures based on the tripods from War of the Worlds: the monsters Deimos-9 and Phobos-7, and the Reaper and Despoiler units.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has several three-legged monsters, such as the Xorn, the Otyugh, and the Triapheg.
  • Genius: The Transgression has the Martian Empire, whose primary leaders, the Overlords, are based on the martians from The War of the Worlds, and as such go to battle in three-legged vehicles.


    Video Games 
  • Half-Life 2: The Combine Striders and Hunters both posses three legs. The Striders are much taller, being about two stories tall, while the hunters are smaller and about human-sized. As with all Combine tech, they are made of Organic Technology.
  • Scrin Annihilator and Reaper Tripods from Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars. The aliens just love these things.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has the Shogun Executioner in two scripted missions, a Humongous Mecha with three legs and three torsos, with each torso shaped like a samurai complete with a Laser Blade. The thing is so big it can destroy aircraft just by walking at them. It's especially effective against the Soviets, as electrical attacks only serve to heal it.
  • Pikmin 3 has a biological variant in the Quaggled Mireclops, the largest boss in the game which resembles a chunk of earth walking on three hoofed legs with a fruit-like head at the top. Its three legs are also its weak point, attacking them will cause the Mireclops to fall over, leaving its fruit-like head within reach of your Pikmin.
  • StarCraft II: Colossi may have four legs, but they are otherwise totally in fitting with the spirit of the trope. They fry stuff at extreme long range with sweeping heat rays, and have very long stilt-legs that let them stride over any terrain with ease.


    Web Original 
  • The Wellsians from The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids (slightly parodical versions of Wells's original Martians) are shown to have devised the Tripods on Earth as a last-minute solution when they realized Earth's gravity made it nearly impossible for them to move on foot. This might explain the rather slapdash engineering.
  • The tribbetheres of Serina are tripedal mammaloid vertebrates descended from mudskipper-like ancestors that modified their pectoral fins and tail into three walking limbs. One group, the canitheres, become fierce hyena-like top predators of the plains, with some Artistic License – Biology being made in the assertion that their three-legged gait made them more efficient to the other quadrupedal bird-descendants they preyed upon (which is clearly a very unlikely case.)

    Western Animation 
  • The pilot of Justice League features invading tripods from Mars, and a heap of War of the Worlds in-jokes. The instability of this method of locomotion is shown when Wonder Woman and the Flash work out ways to trip them up.
  • Black Manta mans a giant tripod in order to steal an armored car in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
    • "Mystery In Space" features Invaders on Rann in Tripods
  • The Lorwardians in Kim Possible make use of walkers during their invasion of the Earth, though they are technically four-legged.
  • The Martians in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
  • Jimmy dreams up invading tripods in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy
  • Referenced in The Venture Bros., where Dr Venture transforms HELPER into a classic tripod "walking eye." When asked what they're good for, Venture is at a loss, apparently convinced by popular sci-fi that they're simply a requirement. Random scenes of destruction also occasionally show a tripod terror running amok.
  • The Mask: In the first episode, Stanley and Charlie have to house-sit a "home of the future". Naturally, Dr. Pretorius gets in and starts futzing with its processors, transforming it into a three-legged weapon of mass destruction.


Video Example(s):


Archibald's Machine

Archie's big machine, which he uses to capture the remaining Boxtrolls is a Steampunk version of this.

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Example of:

Main / TripodTerror

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