The Fighting Machines of Mars

The next issue of the Cepheus Journal, the free Cepheus Engine fanzine, is themed for “Retro-SciFi”. They’re currently asking for submissions by September 15th. I’m planning to write up the H.G. Wells’ classic alien invasion novel The War of the Worlds.

My plan is to stat up the Martians, their machines, and some adventure seeds for players trying to survive the invasion.

Here’s what I have so far: stats for a Martian fighting machine. I used the Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System to create it. The Cepheus Engine TL system doesn’t map exactly to the Martians in the book, but I decided TL 10 was close enough.

Martian Fighting-Machine

Skill: Drive (Walker)
Agility: +2
Speed: 135 kph
C&P: 2 Martians
Open/Closed: Closed
Armor: 20
Hull: 1
Structure: 1
Weapons: Heat Ray – 9D6, Black Smoke Cannon

TL 10 Martian-Fighting Machine

Using a closed 5-ton chassis (1 Hull, 1 Structure, Armor 20), the Martian Fighting Machine is the Martian invader’s primary attack vehicle. It carries an Early Fusion power plant, Code L and a three-legged walker propulsion system, giving a top speed of 135 kph, a cruising speed of 101 kph and an Agility DM of +2. This vehicle is equipped for Off-Road Capability. 0.64 kiloliters of hydrogen support the power plant for 72 hours. This vehicle is equipped with Advanced controls, Class I communication (5 km), The vehicle has 2 weapon points. One is a fixed-mount Heat Ray, the second a fixed-mount Black Smoke Cannon (15 shells). Cargo capacity is .85 kiloliters. The chassis is additionally armored with CrystalIron (x5.) The vehicle requires a crew of two: one driver and one gunner. The vehicle costs KCr541.822 and takes 108 hours to build.

How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulated ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder…Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground?…But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.

War of the Worlds

Heat Ray

RoF: 1/6
Range: ranged (v distant)
Damage: 9D6
Radius: 15m (10 sq)

An intense ray of heat that will ignite anything it touches. Any ammunition in the affected area will immediately explode (assume the damage is doubled). The only known defense is for a target to completely submerge under deep water (at least 0.5m depth)

Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam.

War of the Worlds

Black Smoke Cannon

RoF: 1/2
Range: Ranged (v distant)
Damage: Special
Radius: 15m (10 sq)

Fires shells that emit a black, poisonous gas in a 15m radius. Targets must make an Endurance roll at -6. Death if failed. The cloud will dissipate after 1D x 3 rounds. If there is rain or heavy wind, halve the time.

These canisters smashed on striking the ground — they did not explode — and incontinently disengaged an enormous volume of heavy, inky vapour, coiling and pouring upward in a huge and ebony cumulus cloud, a gaseous hill that sank and spread itself slowly over the surrounding country. And the touch of that vapour, the inhaling of its pungent wisps, was death to all that breathes.

War of the Worlds

3 thoughts on “The Fighting Machines of Mars

    1. I’m still not entirely sure about that bit. 135 kph (101 cruising) is the number I got when using the Vehicle Design rules, with a 5-ton chassis, legs, and a Code L early fusion power plant. Currently I’m justifying it based on the only quote I could find in Wells concerning the tripod’s speed:

      “going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds”

      135kph isn’t out of line for the top speed of a flying bird.

      However, most versions of the machines in movies and TV appear quite a bit slower than that. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll keep this speed when I submit it to the Cepheus Journal.


      1. Yes, movies always showed these as comparatively slow (being tripods does not help because you can move only one leg at a time).

        I wonder if “legs” in Cepheus vehicles doesn’t assume that under the “foot” you have retractable wheels for moving over flat surfaces (roads).

        In any case, even assuming this, the center of gravity would be very high, so taking turns at 100+ kph would be very dangerous, I think.


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