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File:Darkhorse tripod small 2429.png

"And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it?"

"...I'm no engineer and correct me if I'm mistaken, but don't you have rather a design flaw in these things? Now, don't get me wrong: God created a lot of useless, stupid-looking things on this world too, but he didn't see fit to make any of them three-legged. Why was that, do you think?"

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 H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds, and its many adaptations in the century since. Contrast to Spider Tank. A Sub-Trope of Starfish Robots.

Examples of Tripod Terror include:


Comic Books


  • Most film adaptations of The War of the Worlds feature the tripods.
    • Even the 1950s "floating" War of the Worlds martian war machines have, if you look closely, 3 repulsors keeping it hovering in the air. (They originally planned to have the usual tripods, but the amount of money available and the limited technology of the day led them to change it to more fit a "Flying Saucer" motif)
    • 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. So while they're technically tripods (three 'legs') they still have four points of contact.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The Walkers in the original trilogy were inspired by the War of the Worlds tripods.
    • 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.
  • The Lost in Space movie 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 is the Trope Maker. Arguably the Codifier as well.
  • The young-adult trilogy-plus-a-prequel by John Christopher called The Tripods features, well, what you might expect. (The aliens that pilot them also have three legs.) Christopher essentially filed the serial numbers off Wells' Martians, and depicted what the world might be like if their initial invasion had been successful.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama features 3-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 3-part symmetry is central to all things raman.
  • Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars features creatures with these -- they are meant to be roughly the WOTW Martians, had they lived on the same Planet Mars as the Barsoomian Martians, the "Martian Odyssey" martians, the "Out of the Silent Planet" martians and the Flash Gordon Martians. Niven calls them the Softfingers or Astronomers, depending on who is talking about them.
  • Kevin J. Anderson's The Martian War
  • Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman
  • The series Warstrider features an inversion, as 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.

Live Action TV

  • The BBC serial The Tripods, based on the Christopher novels.
  • On the Speculative Documentary Alien Planet (based on Barlowe's Expedition), the groveback is a gigantic animal that goes about on two legs and a massive supporting tail.


  • 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 RPG

  • Mechwarrior has the Ares.
    • Classic BattleTech doesn't yet because the timeline hasn't yet advanced that far. It's only a matter of time, though, since Catalyst Game Labs are dedicated to considering the Dark Age effectively Canon Yet To Come.
  • 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 and Dragons has several three-legged monsters, such as the Xorn, the Otyugh, and the Triapheg.


Video Games

  • The Combine Striders and Hunters of Half Life 2 and its Episodes.
  • Scrin Annihilator and Reaper Tripods from Command and Conquer 3. The aliens just love these things.
  • Tripods also appear in Pikmin, but the ships never use their legs to walk.
  • Colossi in Starcraft 2 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.
  • The Hierarchy Science Walkers from Universe At War
    • ... and Defilers, and Detection Drones, and Reaper drones. Honestly, the Hierarchy is this trope.
  • Darkwalkers from Unreal Tournament III
  • Crysis 2 has tripod drones known as Pingers, who substitute the death ray for powerful sonic weaponry.
  • The boss Tripod Sardine from G-Darius. See Real Life entry below.
  • House Harkonnen's Devastator from Emperor Battle for Dune.
  • Megaleg (a giant planet-sized robot built by Bowser Jr.), the first boss of Super Mario Galaxy.
  • Dwarf Gekko from Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The pilot of Justice League features invading tripods from Mars, and a heap of War of the Worlds in-jokes.
  • 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, though their walkers are technically four-legged.
  • The Martians in Billy and Mandy
  • Jimmy dreams up invading tripods in an episode of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy

Real Life

  • There is a tri-podded animal. Of all things, it's a fish. Tripod Fish to be precise. It really does stand on the ocean floor on its tripods, but that's it; just for standing. It does swim quickly though.
    • Though to be biologically correct, only two of its legs are actually legs. The third is an extension of its tail.
  • Some dogs that have had a leg amputated have been able to continue everyday life by developing a rudimentary tripedal walk.
    • Same with cats, although cats are worse off missing a foreleg than if they're missing a hind leg. It has to do with jumping and landing ability.
  • This experimental robot from Virginia Tech has a creepy-cool three-legged walk cycle.
  • Kangaroos are known to use their tail as a third leg, though their primary means of locomotion over any significant distance is still hopping around on two legs.
    • Although the tail really gets used when the kangaroo is also using its arms, so this is more of a quintapod.
  • The three-legged race, a traditional summer-picnic competition, requires pairs of runners to move side by side and in synchrony, with their adjacent legs tied together.
  • Stationary tripods are useful for field photography, surveying, and the like, as a prop with three legs is easy to set up, and make stable, on uneven surfaces.
  • Airplanes typically have three sets of landing gear.