March 5, 2018


Comments from the Finger: War of the Worlds was the first science fiction book I ever read, and coincidentally, it's also among the first ever written -- it's certainly one of the most influential. Now, these tripods aren't exactly those tripods, but they should retain the same alien-invader appeal, even if these tripods are piloted by moss.


The towering, enigmatic tripods arrive from the stars accompanied by a curious red moss, which spreads wherever they venture. Once a force of tripods land, they set about indiscriminately exterminating all life they encounter in a bid to conquer the entire planet and claim its most precious resource: water.

     Machine Invaders. Clearly, the tripods are designed with alien and hostile intent, but beyond that, they are a mystery. Atop their three flexible legs rests a domed chassis and a mounted laser cannon of novel design, capable of reducing a man to ash in mere seconds. They stand nearly 40 feet tall and peer down with a menacing central eye, bright as a spotlight, a precursor to the laser's fury. If an enemy wanders too close, the tripod can produce a number of long tendrils to ensnare and capture its victim.
     Within, their mechanics are incomprehensible -- they have no guiding system remotely like a construct core; instead, every surface is covered with a thick layer of their red moss. Should the moss be critically poisoned, or the tripod be unable to refresh it with enough water, the tripod falls into a perpetually dormant state, to be awoken only by some later threat. By that strange metric, it seems almost reasonable to state that the moss is in fact controlling the tripods, if such a thing is truly possible.
     Each tripod is capable manufacturing more of its kind, producing them at a rate of about one tripod each day, provided it can find sufficient materials. After landing, a small number of tripods can quickly swell to an invading army of terrible power. However, tripods only seem to replicate once they have cleared enough room for the red moss to proliferate far ahead of them, and only pause to replicate if they have encountered stern resistance.
     Curious Red Moss. Damp, vascular, and fibrous, this crimson moss clings to every surface in the tripod's wake. It drinks deep of whatever water it encounters, spreading rapidly up riverbanks and along coastlines, and chokes other plants and vegetation with its roots. A single clump of red moss can transform a rainforest into a red moss jungle in a matter of hours.
     As it spreads, the moss progressively alters the soil and atmosphere to favor its conditions for growth. It ejects sulfur compounds into the air, soil, and water, inducing global changes with surprising speed. This terraforming is the final step for a tripod invasion. Once a planet has fully given way to its new atmosphere, a few tripods leave, flying aimlessly in search of new worlds, while the rest fall dormant, keeping a silent watch over their conquered planet.
     Constructed Nature. A tripod doesn't require air, food, drink, or sleep.

Gargantuan construct, neutral evil

Armor Class 19 (natural armor)
Hit Points 186 (12d20 + 60)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 25 (+7) DEX 21 (+5) CON 20 (+5)
INT 14 (+2) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 8 (-1)

Damage Immunities psychic
Damage Resistances radiant; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed
Senses blindsight 30 ft., darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages --
Challenge 13 (10,000 XP)

Microbe Vulnerability. The tripod has disadvantage on saving throws against diseases and dies 1d6 days after being afflicted with a disease.

Regeneration. The tripod regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn. If tripod is afflicted with any disease, this trait doesn't function.


Multiattack. The tripod makes two attacks with its laser cannon or stomps twice and uses its tentacles.

Laser Cannon. Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 120/360 ft., one target. Hit: 39 (7d10) radiant damage.

Stomp. Melee Weapon Attack. +12 to hit, reach 30 ft. one target. Hit: 14 (1d12 + 7) bludgeoning damage.

Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 30 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d6 + 7) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 18). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained.

Capture. The tripod makes one tentacle attack against a Large or smaller target it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target is also captured, pulled into a compartment within the tripod, and the grapple ends. While captured, the target is blinded and restrained, can only make one attack on each of its turns, and it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the tripod. The tripod can only have 6 creatures captured at one time.
     If the tripod takes 100 damage from its captured creatures, all of the creatures captured by the tripod are released and fall prone in a space within 10 ft. of the tripod. If the tripod dies, a captured creature takes 22 (4d10) fire damage, is no longer restrained by it, and can escape from the wreckage by using 15 ft. of movement, exiting prone.

3/5/18: Multiattack: Two attacks with the laser cannon
Stomp: 1d12 + 7 damage; Tentacles 2d6 + 7 damage


  1. Awesome, and a cool addition to dark matter.

    Three attacks of 7d10 seem way too much, however. It's 117 (21d10) damage a turn. For comparison, a Goristro demon (cr 17) deals 83 (14d10+7) in a turn. An ancient red dragon (cr 24) deals 69 with bite&claws, or 91 with breath.

    Also, the 56/turn the tripod deals in melee is significantly higher than the 47/turn of a cr 13 adult white dragon- it's in fact the same as a cr 17 adult red dragon.

    Either the tripod's damage needs to be reduced (especially the lasers), or the cr needs to be higher.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to say that I absolutely love the homage to a true SF classic.

      You mind if I make stats for some other SF creatures and send them in?

    2. Oh no! I intended the laser cannon to be twice a turn -- that's a typo on my part. That being said, the recommended damage in the DMG is pretty damn high, so I'll probably knock another d10 off of that for good measure. That moves the laser cannon to 66 (12d10) in a given turn. I know this is still a lot, but I definitely want the tripods to be threatening at range.

      For the melee attacks, I /may/ have forgotten to account for the tentacles when I balanced the Stomp... I'll probably make the stomp 1d12 + 7, then drop the tentacles to 2d6. This gives us 41 (2d12 + 2d6 + 21).

      And /yes/, I would love to read any stats you have for sci-fi creatures! I'm very excited to see what you cook up for me.

    3. Going down to two laser attacks puts this pretty much bang on CR 13 per the DMG. Its defensive stats are way below the goristo's and dragon's, plus you've not accounted for the goristo's charge or the dragon's legendary actions and the fact that its breath is AoE.

    4. I actually have accounted for the charge, which is why it's 14d10. But other than that, yes, I've only checked raw damage (since its defenses are ok for cr 13).

      Btw, why does the tripod have no languages? It's piloted by something inside, it should at least understand some language.

    5. I did something a off the wall with the lore here, just to make it a little more my own: the tripods aren't just using the red moss to terraform, they're actually /controlled/ by the moss. It's an easy lore point to set aside for the classic War of the Worlds tripods, but I thought it'd be fun to have a twist.

    6. Does the moss have no language, though? What if it spoke deep speech?

    7. I think not being able to communicate with the weird intelligent red moss helps sell exactly how alien it is. I could give it telepathy, I suppose, but that doesn't jive with what I have so far.

    8. Should I ask how the moss built metal robots, or why moss would think about moving around with legs (and attacks with tentacles), or why would a creature that different from all known would even be affected by diseases that affect humanoids? Or should I just let it go and say "magic"?

    9. To my mind, the moss is either a very successful science experiment gone wrong (like, it could have been designed to colonize worlds by another race), or it represents a dramatic devolution of an already bizarre race. It might be, for example, more closely related to mimics than to moss, but has lost its ability to change shape with time.

      Whatever the case, I think speculation is probably more interesting than knowing for sure. Plus, it just adds to the weirdness of life in the universe of Dark Matter, so I'm happy with it.

    10. Have you seen The Expanse, or read any of the books in that series? There's this substance tjey the protomolecule, and it spreads and replicates, and binds with organic life to create "something" intelligent with a specific yet unknown purpose

    11. SyFy has done two seasons so far of the show and the thirds starts in April

  2. Pestilence Clerics: “At last. You laughed at me! But now who’s laughing?!”

    1. War of the Worlds is basically a plague cleric's wet dream.