Saturday, May 24, 2008

Death Machines

Gamma World's ultimate foe is the Death Machine. A flying robotic artillery platform powered by a self-contained nuclear plant. Bristling with laser batteries, blasters, rocket launchers, and a fusion bomb mortar -- depending on the weapons array deployed it is capable of dealing an average damage of 2000 points per round. Of course targets at close range face six black ray guns and four trek guns, which skip the dice and just instakill or disintegrate if they hit, no saving throw. An energy dampener fries the circuits of all robots within 60 meters and overloads all but the strongest force fields, while the death machine's own force field can absorb 400 hp before failing. The tarrasque would roll over and pee itself if a death machine hovered by.

That said, the illustration of this city-levelling gunship is strangely unimposing:

It's a crisp, typically excellent Elmore drawing, but static and draftsmanlike. It just doesn't evoke the sort of jelly-kneed, tongue swallowing, mad scrambling panic one hopes for in a 15m wide flying saucer of destruction.

Consequently I've taken to imagining the Death Machine differently. It's not sleek and streamlined. In fact it's a clanking, tank-treaded, earthbound lummox. But if you want to crush the mutants, drive them before you, and hear the lamentations of their androids...

...this, my friends, is a death machine:

MP3: Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor, Backwards Sucking (Heat Miser) [Compact Disc - Downloads]


Sham aka Dave said...

Awesome example of Death Machine! I had forgotten about that monstrosity from Gamma World. I always pictured it as some clunky, oil leaking, metal on metal grinding, steam emitting mess of deadly engineering.

I've given up on finding my long lost 1e GW box, so it seems I'll have to eBay at some point.


James Maliszewski said...

Strange thing is that I always loved that Elmore illustration for precisely the reason you dislike it: it's bland. I thought nothing better exemplified the blasé attitude the Ancients had toward warfare than the death machine, whose name I always assumed was a post-apocalyptic nickname rather than its official one, which was likely something dull and bureaucratic.

Max said...

An excellent point, James. Given my sense of the place as a place of slapstick ultraviolence and junkyard pop-culture bricolage, I tend to underthink the pre-history of the Gamma World.

That said, here's a thought. Let the Elmore Death Machine remain canonical. Instead, the machine in the photo is a massive excavation bot (more or less true, if I recall correctly) repurposed as a seige engine by some mad cryptic alliance...howling mutants firing blasters, shotguns and crossbows from the girders, shock troops mustering in cages bolted to the engine housing, waiting for that awful saw the chew through the walls...That'll do!

BigFella said...

In my campaign, the Death Machine was renamed the R-50 A.O.D., which before the big one stood for A.ntigravity O.cillation D.rive. Those that encountered it in post-Big One 'Merica knew it as the A.ngel O.f D.eath

Secular Transhumanist said...

Anybody remember the GW add-on game Gammarauders? Big Godzilla-looking things cybernetically enhanced with missiles and shields and such. It was a more or less conventional wargame (kinda like OGRE), but the infantry units were called popcorn.

'Cause the Gammarauders would eat them up like, well, popcorn. :-)