open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In King of Thorn, "Medusa" is a disease that came from a meteorite; spreading across the globe and turning most humans into statues. (and others into monsters). It's revealed to have a psychic vector; rather than a viral or bacterial one.
- Marvel Star Wars has the Crimson Forever, whose name is rather contrived - "D-dead! Everyone on board, Commander! Most of them fallen at their stations... their entire bodies turned that terrible crimson...! Even their eyes...! All open... staring... like they were looking straight on into forever...!" Luke and a squadron of pilots immediately put on masks and set up quarantine but still fell ill themselves after one of them found a red gem. It turned out there were two such gems, life-forms from beyond this galaxy who were mates, and who reacted to being separated by radiating anguish that manifested as illness and dropped people into comas deep enough that even the best medical tech was fooled. The shock of seeming to contract such a disease made most people die for real, but since Luke had had a fever-dream that gave him insights on what to do, he revived when the gems were reunited.
Films — Live-Action
- In Undead or Alive, the "White Man's Curse" that causes its wild-west era victims to rise from the dead and hunger for human brains is revealed to be a spell cast by the medicine man Geronimo before his death at the hands of the U.S. Army.
- In the universe of The Last Witch Hunter, The Black Death plague isn't a natural disease, but a magical plague created by the Witch Queen as her take on Apocalypse How.
- J. R. R. Tolkien seems to have liked this trope:
- The Silmarillion mentions a plague apparently sent by Sauron to weaken Gondor so he could regain control of Mordor.
"And in the days of Telemnar, the third and twentieth of the line of Meneldil, a plague came upon dark winds out of the east, and it smote the King and his children, and many of the people of Gondor perished. Then the forts on the borders of Mordor were deserted, and Minas Ithil was emptied of its people; and evil entered again into the Black Land secretly, and the ashes of Gorgoroth were stirred as by a cold wind, for dark shapes gathered there."
- A mystical plague is used in the same work to account for the death of Túrin Turambar's younger sister Lalaith.
- The Silmarillion mentions a plague apparently sent by Sauron to weaken Gondor so he could regain control of Mordor.
- The Dresden Files claims that The Black Death was originally created by Fallen Angels through magic. The book Death Masks centered on Harry recovering a religious artifact before the Fallen could use it to create another plague.
- This occurs in Mark Chadbourn's book The Queen of Sinister, part of the The Age of Misrule Verse. Magic has come back, technology has failed and there is something lurking beyond even the mystical otherworlds of the dead and the gods that kinda, sorta, wants to destroy humanity utterly. A mystical plague that kills human life essence itself (basically 100% fatal, and dissolves its victims flesh leaving them just a load of pus inside a bag of skin and since it comes from the otherworld there is no known vector, source, or cure for the disease) is the chosen tool for this book. Too bad for it that two of the early victims were the son and husband of a woman that is an unknowing mystical champion of humanity, and the plague which was supposed to destroy her wakes that mystical potential. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!.
- In Temple of the Winds of the Sword of Truth series, The Imperial Order unleashes a plague, based on The Black Death and made much worse by magic, on the heroes' capital city. For bonus Kick the Dog points, Emperor Jagang deliberately infects a group of young children as patients zero.
- The Song of the Lioness quartet has one early on: the Sweating Sickness is sent by an evil duke in hopes that it will weaken the kingdom and kill everyone who stands in his way to the throne.
- Same author, different universe. Briar's Book or The Healing in the Vine (depending on where you live) features one called The Blue Pox. Rather than being created deliberately, it's caused accidentally by improper disposal of magical potions.
- Phoenix and Ashes: At one point, Alison summons a disease elemental and sets it loose; it's implied that this caused the 1918 H1N1 pandemic.
- In the Cronus Chronicles, one of our heroes, a British public school student named Zee, is sent to America to get away from one of these, not realizing he is in fact, the carrier.
- In the Labyrinths of Echo series Anavuayna is an ancient magic plague, borne out of an enraged Elven princess curse, that not only slowly liquifies the victim's body, bones and all, while the victim is fully conscious, but also destroys their soul on every level of existence.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, the Big Bad crafts a curse that spreads and behaves like a deadly disease. It manages to scour two countries before a cure (also magical) is found.
- In the Harry Potter series there is a great deal of fear of werewolves due to misinformation and concern about the spread of Lycanthropy, a parallel to AIDS, which sufferers of are discriminated against. In Prisoner of Azkaban Lupin resigns after Snape outs him, and in Order of the Phoenix it is revealed that Lupin and Sirius already despise Umbridge due to some ani-werewolf legislation she wrote up that makes it near impossible for werewolves to find employment.
- In The Divine Comedy, falsifiers (which include alchemists, perjurers and counterfeiters) are punished in the last bolgia in the 8th circle of hell by being afflicted by horrible diseases.
- Twice on Merlin.
- In the first season, Nimueh puts a creature into the water supply that sickens everyone in Camelot.
- Later, a magical creature called a Lamia sickens an entire village AND the knights who go with Merlin when he is sent to try and stop it.
- The plot driver in The Legend of Dick and Dom; the heroes are collecting Plot Coupons to make a magic potion to cure a plague. They discover in season two that it was magic, caused by the Big Bad.
- The episode "Death at Sunset" of Psi Factor deals with an inexplicable disease which kills the inhabitants of a small town one by one.
- Supernatural: The Croatoan Virus, which turns people into rage-filled zombies, is demonic in origin. Specifically, it was developed by the Horseman Pestilence on Lucifer's orders in order to herald the Apocalypse.
Myths & Religion
- Miasma (as referenced in the Oedipus the King example below) was a part of the ancient Greek's cosmological view: If a people or their ruler acted in a way that defied the natural order (as they saw it), this was a logical consequence of said actions.
- In the Book of Exodus, a couple of the Plagues of Egypt, which God called to force the Pharaoh to free his Jewish slaves, count: the plague of pestilence (which only affected livestock) and the plague of boils (skin disease).
- If angered sufficiently, the vicious Scottish fae Nuckelavee could infect horses, crops, and humans with a disease called Mortasheen.
- In Hawaiian Mythology, the normally-benevolent Poli'ahu inflicted her ex-fiancé Aiwohikupua and his lover Poli'ahu's sister, Pele with chills and fever because they snuck off together on what would have been Aiwohikupua and Poli'ahu's wedding day.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Judges Guild adventure "Verbosh" had a new spell called "Plague" which causes 20-70% of the population in a 1 mile square area to be incapacitated for 1-4 weeks as well as killing many of them.
- The 2E supplement Tome of Magic. The 7th level priest spell Breath of Death (reversed Breath of Life) affects an entire community. Anyone who fails a saving throw vs. death magic is infected with a disease that is fatal in 1-6 weeks.
- Warhammer: Nurgle mages get these kinds of spells, as do the Skaven.
- Exalted features, among many others, the Great Contagion. Dug out of a dimensional nexus that instills insanity in all those who view it without proper protection by one of the Deathlords, it killed about 90% of Creation on the first go. The only thing that stopped it from finishing the job was one of the other Deathlords inviting The Fair Folk in to finish the job; the chaotic energies of the Wyld that came with the invasion actually bolstered the immunities of the survivors.
- To clarify; not 90% of Creation's people. 90% of everything. Plants, animals, spirits, gods... anything that could basically constitute "alive" in Creation was fair game. On top of that, the disease was so infectious that mystically observing it was capable of contracting it.
- One rise scenario from zombie game All Flesh Must Be Eaten has the PHADE virus, which is the zombie plague... as an STD. The whole thing started when a guy was so bereaved about the loss of his girlfriend, he used necromancy to bring her back for one last fling. And then he decided he wasn't that into her, and slept with someone else, and it just spread from there.
- Ars Magica. The spell "Curse of the Unportended Plague" starts a plague in a city over a period of 6-12 months. It will kill 10% of the city's population over a period of a few months.
- This is shown in Sophocles' Oedipus the King: Oedipus's actions (killing his father, marrying his mother) unknowingly brought blight and plague ("miasma") to his people. Crops did not grow, stock animals died off, and women suffered from infertility, all because Oedipus's actions went against classical concepts of morality.
- BIONICLE: The Dreaming Plague, caused by Annona, a being that feasts on dreams. Its victims lose the ability to dream, slowly turning them violent, insane, and ultimately, dead. It almost wiped out the Iron Tribe, and the handful of survivors were shunned by all the other tribes for fear of carrying the disease.
- In Bloodborne, the Scourge of Beast is a plague which turns people into werewolf-like creatures which is known as Beasts. the twist is that the plague was spread by the blood of the Great One.
- Warcraft 3: The plague of undeath that turns people into zombies, preparing the way for a demonic invasion.
- The Blight disease spread by the Darkspawn in Dragon Age is said to be a curse by the Maker upon the Tevinter Magisters, who turned into the first Darkspawn themselves under its influence. It twists and eventually kills everything infected by it. The sites of especially large darkspawn raids have been hit so hard that dead bodies won't rot because all insects and bacteria have already been killed.
- Interestingly, Avernus' research into the Taint suggests that it's alien to Thedas, with it's true origins unknown even to the denizens of the Fade, such as Spirits and Demons. Avernus believes that the key to understanding it is tied into whatever caused the corruption of the Black City.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals that Red Lyrium is lyrium tainted by the Blight. This has disturbing implications: since the Blight only affects living things, lyrium is alive, meaning using it is just another form of Blood Magic. The fact that Red Lyrium is found in the Primeval Thaig, which predates the First Blight, hints that the Blight existed long before the Darkspawn appeared. It didn't start with them.
- The Elder Scrolls
- In the series backstory, the Thrassian Plague ravaged Tamriel in the 1st Era. Created by the "slug-men" Sload of Thras, the "coral kingdom" to the southwest of Tamriel, who are known to excel as necromancers and Evil Sorcerers. The Thrassian Plague killed more than half of Tamriel's population. In response, the nations of Tamriel formed the All-Flags Navy, which ravaged Thras, killed all of the Sload it could find, and finally sunk Thras beneath the sea. (The Sload survived, however, and would raise Thras to the surface once again.) Unsurprisingly, Peryite, the Daedric Prince of Pestilence and Tasks, is rumored to have been associated with the creation of the plague.
- Also from the backstory, the Knahaten Flu ravaged Tamriel in the 2nd Era for a period of about 40 years. It is attributed to an Argonian shaman who created the plague by manipulating the spores of the Hist in retaliation for the awful treatment of his people by the other races. Other sources claim that it was a natural disease, but the general distrust of the Argonians throughout Tamriel combined with the fact that Argonians were immune to the disease made the "Argonians caused it" story more popular. The Flu is believed to have completely wiped out the Lilmothiit "Fox Folk" and the Kothringi silver-skinned menfolk, both formerly native to the Black Marsh.
- Dagoth Ur's Blight, which spreads via Blight Storms and his minions. It can inflict crippling blight diseases and, most importantly, the Corprus Disease. The Corprus Disease is actually a curse of Dagoth Ur's (essentially divinity channeled from the Heart of Lorkhan), which brings those inflicted under his influence. It brings with it a nasty case of Body Horror and deteriorating mental functions.
- The Crimson Plague in Tribunal is not a standard disease, but a mystical one spread by the powerful lich Gedna Relvel. You'll need to kill her in order to stop it, and it's no easy task.
- In Skyrim, Peryite's Daedric quest involves hunting down and kill the leader of a group of his rogue followers who've been inflicted with such a plague. Before going rogue, Peryite intended to have these followers spread a this plague to "cover the world" with his "blessing".
- At the start of Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter is in the grip of one of these. Curing it requires body parts from four magical creatures shipped from Waterdeep. Which are promptly stolen by the group behind the plague after they arrive, forcing the Player Character to spend the first chapter recovering them.
- In Dishonored, the rat plague initially was a virulent plague that the Spymaster brought from the Pandyssian Continent to wipe out the poor in Dunwall. However, the Outsider's interest was piqued and he made the plague more virulent, making all means of quarantine meaningless, and perhaps ensured the infected would become Weepers. Notably his primary 'servant', Granny Rags seems to spread the plague by summoning more and more rats to areas. You can too if you go the High Chaos route.
- In Overlord II, the plague was caused by an event known as the Cataclysm that devastated the lands of the first game and gave rise to the Anti-Magical Faction. The ending reveals that the plague was caused by Florian Greenheart, an elf born without magic who tampered with the Tower Heart in an attempt to gain magical powers. With the help of Rose, he then created the Glorious Empire through the anti-magic sentiment of the humans following the Cataclysm while secretly gathering magic himself.
- Heretic 2 has a mystic plague as a central part of the story, mostly it causes death, insanity and violence, but there is mention of another version that can be used to control people.
- The King of Death in Tears to Tiara 2 summons a plague, clearly based on The Black Death based on the graphics, that devastates Northern Hispania before being checked. And it continued to spread within The Empire, the very side that summoned it.
- The Delphinus Parasite in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey doubles as this and a Hate Plague. It's actually the inchoate form of the resident Demon Lord's soul.
- Hollow Knight: The main threat in the game is a mysterious, terrifying plague that’s turning Hallownest into a Death World. Bugs afflicted with it are driven to violent insanity by it and get reanimated as monstrous husks after dying. It was created by the Radience, the god who created bugkind, as a “divine” punishment after they stopped worshiping her and your character is an Empty Shell created to try and contain it.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, the Blood Fever is a disease that is fatal to elves as it eats their blood cells from within and makes blood erupt from their bodies in the later stages. At first it seems like a natural plague, but over time and some investigations later it becomes apparent that the plague may in fact have a magical origin and has been created for a special purpose in which elven demise plays a part.
- The Astral Plague in Tales from My D&D Campaign isn't a disease in the most technical sense of the word, as it doesn't seem to be contagious. Caused by exposure to the astral radiation from active Ytarran Teleportation Portals, the Plague wiped out the entire Ytarran race within a generation. More recently, the heroes have become infected, though they are at present shielded from the effects by a friendly spirit. However, the protection won't last forever, and the party will eventually need a cure.
- In one episode of The Smurfs, Gargamel's Evil Plan was to spread a magical disease called the hopping cough, which caused a cough that made the victims jump violently. (The idea was that if the smurfs caught it, he could find and catch them more easily — or in the non-Bowdlerized version, the illness was simply fatal if left untreated.) He even showed some smarts this time, and planned to ambush them at the places where the ingredients for a cure could be found. Unfortunately for the villain, he eventually caught it himself while looking for them, and Papa Smurf did indeed manage to make the cure.
- In the Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light episode "Horn of Unicorn, Claw of Dragon", a Magical Plague strikes Prysmos, affecting all but one of the Spectral Knights and up to five of the Darkling Lords. In this case, the precise cause of the Plague is unspecified, though Merklynn does say that he foresaw it coming and tried (unsuccessfully) to send the Darkling Lords on a quest for the ingredients (the unicorn's horn and dragon's claw referred to in the title) needed for a healing spell.