Created By: Tacitus on September 16, 2009
Troped

Plaguemaster

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
The Plaguemaster is a character who delights in disease and pestilence, gleefully spreading contagions and poxes across the world for the evulz. Leprous wounds, eyes scabbed over with crusted filth, weeping sores, unburied corpses piling up in the streets - these are a few of their favorite things, and they'll use whatever technological or supernatural talents they possess to bring about The End of the World as We Know It with a hacking, bloody cough.

Typically a Plaguemaster's physical form is just as ravaged by disease as his victims, but due to the character's empathy for illness, they are immune to the negative effects of the diseases they carry, and may even have supernatural toughness because they're a walking plague ward. In appearance, the Plaguemaster reflects his obsession, either bloated with rot and cancerous growths, or else wasted and skeletal - though some particularly insidious Plaguemasters appear perfectly normal, all the better to spread disease without suspicion.

Very rarely, characters will have powers of pestilence but no real interest in using them. But for the most part, any character with plague-related abilities is quite clearly a villain.

See The Plague or The Virus for what the Plaguemaster spreads. If faced in combat, the Plaguemaster is usually a Gradual Grinder.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • Infectious Lass (one of the Legion of Substitute Heroes in Legion of Super-Heroes comics) is a heroic version of this.
  • Typhoid Mary from Elektra (Maybe an aversion as she's totally hot?)
  • Bile from Omega Flight in the Marvel Universe.

Film
  • The antagonist in 12 Monkeys released a deadly plague in multiple cities across the world which ended up causing the human survivors to live underground.

Literature
  • The immortal "H" from Zelazny's To Die in Italbar. When he meditates in a certain way, his immune system goes into a sort of Super Mode that can instantly cure anyone of any disease simply by being in his presence. However, when he goes long enough without meditation, he begins sort of radiating every disease he's ever been exposed to. When, due to a number of mistakes and understandings, he goes MUCH too long without meditation he is driven completely insane, eventually reaching the point where he can basically kill entire planets with a brief tour, and even his powerful immune system can't keep him from being covered in open sores. This is because it eventually turns out that his powers are granted by communion with an alien goddess of life and death.

Live-Action TV
  • There was a woman like this in Stargate SG-1, who was known on her home planet as the Destroyer of Worlds. She created a virus that wiped out most of the population, and tricked the Too Dumb to Live SG-1 into letting her escape from the prison she was in.
  • The damned soul of the week from the Brimstone episode "Carrier"

Mythology and Religion

Tabletop Games
  • In Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, this is the portfolio of the Chaos God Nurgle. He spreads terrible diseases and plagues, and recruits from the victims who in their delirium turn to him as a way to end their suffering - he is the god of Hope, after all. Nurgle's disciples tend to be bloated with rot, but as part of their deity's favor are wholly immune to the poxes they carry, and are even supernaturally strong because of their corruption, working tirelessly to give others Nurgle's "gifts." Bizarrely enough, "Papa Nurgle" is one of the most jovial and kindly of the Chaos entities, cuddling and caressing his nauseating daemons, and shows his affection for his worshippers by inventing disgusting new diseases for them to enjoy.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons expansion The Book of Vile Darkness introduced a prestige class called the Cancer Mage, which is just as disgusting as it sounds. Two words: Cancerous Companion. It's actually sentient, can communicate telepathically with the Cancer Mage, and is a friend that's always with you.

Video Games
  • The Lich King spent Warcraft III spreading a plague of undeath across Lordaeron. During World of Warcraft, the Forsaken's Royal Apothecary Society spends its time brewing horrifying diseases and testing them on prisoners in an attempt to create a toxin capable of wiping everything that isn't free-willed undead from Azeroth. Meanwhile, Noth the Plaguebringer is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The storyline of [PROTOTYPE] is eventually revealed to be a match between dueling Plaguemasters. On the one hand is Elizabeth Greene, sole survivor of the last virus outbreak and the game's Big Bad, who in a partial subversion appears entirely human: even her One-Winged Angel form, once defeated, simply spits her out in her original human form. The other? Protagonist Alex Mercer, who unwittingly is The Virus itself. He also appears human, but unlike Greene, his powers manifest through monstrous - and awesome-looking - transformations.
  • Adam from Trauma Center is not only the Plaguemaster, having created GUILT from his own cells, but has also kept himself alive for over a hundred years in his quest to 'return death' to the world. It's also suggested that the seeds of GUILT are found in all human DNA, so theoretically anyone could be another Adam.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • "Typhoid" Mary Mallon was a rare carrier of typhoid who was wholly immune to it, and ended up spreading it to over fifty people. This was not through malice, but mainly due to her moronic denial that she was responsible for the sicknesses blossoming around her, and her refusal to quit her job as a cook, making her more of a Zombie Infectee than a straight Plaguemaster.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • September 15, 2009
    Oonerspism
    • There was a woman like this in Stargate SG-1, who was known on her home planet as the Destroyer of Worlds. She created a virus that wiped out most of the population, and tricked the Too Dumb To Live SG-1 into letting her escape from the prison she was in.
  • September 15, 2009
    minstrel of moria
    So is this about the power, or the personality associated with it? Given that Bad Powers Bad People isn't set in stone, I think there have been one or two heroes with this ability.
  • September 15, 2009
    foxley
    Infectious Lass (one of the Legion of Substitute Heroes in Legion Of Super Heroes comics) is a heroic version of this.
  • September 15, 2009
    witchdoctor
    The Lich King from World Of Warcraft might qualify as he spreads a magical plague that raises the people it kills as undead. Kel'Thuzad might be a more direct match.
  • September 15, 2009
    Tacitus
    Hmm, good question. I guess this is more about intent than where the plagues are coming from, especially given Oonerspism's example above, so theoretically there could be a character with the ability to inflict others with crippling illness who doesn't necessarily enjoying doing so, and may be Blessed With Suck.

    Still, it may be a good idea to list them here as Subversions, since to my knowledge there's no trope for disease as a superpower - mainly because anyone with such a power tends to end up a Plaguemaster anyway, making a separate trope redundant.
  • September 15, 2009
    Supertroper
    • The antagonist in Twelve Monkeys released a deadly plague in multiple cities across the world which ended up causing the human survivors to live underground.

    • Typhoid Mary from Elektra (Maybe an aversion as she's totally hot?)

    Also how about Typhoid Mary as a name, or Pestilence
  • September 15, 2009
    Neb
    A better example for World Of Warcraft would probably be either Apothecary Putress (whose entire schtick is to show up with catapults full of bottled plague) or Noth the Plaguebringer.
  • September 15, 2009
    Dick Richardson
    One of the Chaos units in Warhammer 40 K.
  • September 16, 2009
    EricDVH
    The immortal “H” from Zelazny's To Die in Italbar. When he meditates in a certain way, his immune system goes into a sort of Super Mode that can instantly cure anyone of any disease simply by being in his presence. However, when he goes long enough without meditation, he begins sort of “radiating” every disease he's ever been exposed to. When, due to a number of mistakes and understandings, he goes MUCH too long without meditation he is driven completely insane, eventually reaching the point where he can basically kill entire planets with a brief tour, and even his powerful immune system can't keep him from being covered in open sores. This is because it eventually turns out that his powers are granted by communion with an alien goddess of life and death.
  • September 16, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Not just one of the Chaos units, but pretty much every Daemon and follower of Nurgle, who'se pretty much the patron god of these guys. Nurgle is the Chaos God of despair, and his favourite method of spreading despair is through diseases. He also loves gifting his followers with various diseases but keeping their bodies alive even as they become infected and rotten. They tend to become Plaquemasters, spreading Nurgle's "gifts" to anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path. Despite this, he's actually a pretty nice guy, as far as Eldritch Abominations go, being just about the only deity in the setting who actually cares for his followers (even if he shows his affection by gifting you with a flesh-eating virus).
  • September 16, 2009
    Ryusui
    • The storyline of Prototype is eventually revealed to be a match between dueling Plaguemasters. On the one hand is Elizabeth Greene, sole survivor of the last virus outbreak and the game's Big Bad, who in a partial subversion appears entirely human: even her One Winged Angel form, once defeated, simply spits her out in her original human form. The other? Protagonist Alex Mercer, who unwittingly is The Virus itself. He also appears human, but unlike Greene, his powers manifest through monstrous - and awesome-looking - transformations.
    • Adam from Trauma Center is not only the Plaguemaster, having created GUILT from his own cells, but has also kept himself alive for over a hundred years in his quest to "return death" to the world. It's also suggested that the seeds of GUILT are found in all human DNA, so theoretically anyone could be another Adam.
  • September 16, 2009
    Arilou
    The thing about Nurgle is that, for being a God of Despair, he's actually pretty cheerfull.
  • September 16, 2009
    foxley
    Bile from Omega Flight in the Marvel Universe.
  • September 16, 2009
    Durazno
    In the Dungeons And Dragons Book of Vile Darkness, there was a prestige class called Cancer Mage.
  • September 16, 2009
    Tacitus
    Typhoid Mary doesn't work, the Elektra character being referenced is too obscure, while her real-life namesake is even less suitable.

    As we all know, Mary Mallon was a rare carrier of typhoid who was wholly immune to it, and ended up spreading it to over fifty people. This was not through malice, but mainly due to her moronic denial that she was responsible for the sicknesses blossoming around her, and her refusal to quit her job as a cook. She's probably more of a Zombie Infectee than anything.

    That said, while she isn't suited to be the Trope Namer, she probably deserves a mention here as a subversion we can all facepalm to.
  • September 16, 2009
    Tomtitan
    "The Common Cold" from Codename Kids Next Door.
  • September 16, 2009
    foxley
    The damned soul of the week from the Brimstone episode "Carrier"
  • September 16, 2009
    Known Unknown
  • September 16, 2009
    Tacitus
    Rolling Updates and recently-launched-YKTTW synergy power, goooooo!
  • September 17, 2009
    arromdee
    I don't think the Stargate woman counts. She created a plague, but she didn't carry the plague herself.
  • September 17, 2009
    aurora369
    Ernst Biren from Deadlands.
  • September 30, 2009
    Tacitus
    Probably gonna launch this tomorrow night, so last call for examples!
  • October 1, 2009
    Arivne
    Mythology
    • Polytheistic religions sometimes have deities of disease and sickness:
      • Finnish: Kiputytto - goddess of disease.
      • Chinese: Lu Yueh - god of epidemics.
      • Norse: The goddess Hel could cause plagues, diseases and pestilence with the wave of her hand.
  • October 1, 2009
    castaghast
    In 12 Monkeys, my understanding was that the protagonist of the film wound up setting off the chain of events that spread the disease in a Stable Time Loop, and the antagonist for the majority of the film was in fact just a slightly off animal rights activist.
  • October 1, 2009
    PolarBear
    @castaghast: IIRC the protagonist sets off the chain of events that leads to the red-herring antagonist freeing zoo animals. He had no effect on the real antagonist, who would have spread the disease no matter what.
  • October 1, 2009
    Unknown%20Troper
    • The SCP Foundation has an SCP that collects diseases, up to and including the infamous 1918 strain of influenza. She can unleash them on anyone she chooses.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=nifg2edx74rqbhmfpjy13kdo