"All things must wither and die. Let root rot and bower blight, to feed the pestilence of abandoned hope."
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 frequently enjoy immunity
to the negative effects of the diseases they carry, and may even have supernatural toughness because
they're a walking plague ward. The Plaguemaster's obsession is often reflected in his appearance
, either bloated with rot and cancerous growths, or wasted and skeletal... but the most insidious Plaguemasters appear perfectly normal, all the better to spread disease without suspicion (or they are Typhoid Marys
The more technologically adept Plaguemasters
may use Synthetic Plagues
. If the Plaguemaster isn't immune to their diseases, you can expect them to die by becoming infected with their own plague
Very rarely, characters will have powers of pestilence but lack a real Plaguemaster's 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
. Their activities are always a great excuse to introduce a Zombie Apocalypse
. Sister Trope
to Poisonous Person
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Anime and Manga
- Magic: The Gathering
- One of Black's domains is inflicting disease. There are many cards with a Plaguemaster flavor; for example, the Phyrexian Plaguelord.
- This is the hat of the Phyrexians, and Scars of Mirrodin gives them powers to match; via -1/-1 counters and poison (can't remove it, get 10 and you lose).
- The Theros block also included Pharika, God of Affliction.
- Infectious Lass (one of the Legion of Substitute Heroes in Legion of Super-Heroes comics) is a heroic version of this.
- Bile from Omega Flight in the Marvel Universe.
- Pestilence from The Horsemen of Apocalypse.
- One volume of Fables shows a war council among The Empire where one plan is to send many of their warlocks into our world and use magical plagues as part one of the end of the world.
- Judge Mortis, one of the Dark Judges from the Judge Dredd universe. The touch of Mortis brings decay!
- DiNA: Simmons, the Crimson Plague, capable of destroying a planet in a night, is either this or a Typhoid Mary. Once a month, her poisonous blood becomes an airborne virus.
- The Cener Druids in the Lone Wolf gamebook series. They first play a major role in the aptly-titled The Plague Lords of Ruel.
- The immortal "H" from Roger 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 kill entire planets with a brief tour, and 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.
- In Good Omens, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Pollution is one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Pestilence quit decades ago over that whole "penicillin" thing.
- Victor from The Company Novels is turned into an unwitting plaguemaster by the Plague Cabal, unknowingly inflicting deadly disease to those around him at Labienus' whim. When he does find out, Labienus uses it to leverage him into becoming The Mole, since he can activate Victor to kill anyone he's close to if he doesn't obey. He pushes Victor a bit too far in the end, and suffers And I Must Scream by way of one of his own plagues when The Dog Bites Back.
- Typhoid Larry from Perry Moore's Hero is one of the few heroic versions of this trope.
- The character Sebastian Gault becomes the King of Plagues in Jonathan Maberry's appropriately-titled novel, The King of Plagues. His job, within the secret society which gives him that title, is to spread devastating diseases across the globe so that his organization can profit from the chaos...somehow.
- In Septimus Heap, Queen Etheldredda uses her pet Aie-Aie to spread a Sickenesse among all those who displease her.
- John Connolly's short story The Cancer Cowboy Rides has Buddy Carson, who spreads cancer with a touch.
- Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death" revolves around the nobility of an unspecified country escaping the titular pestilence by locking themselves away in the prince's country estate, where the disease eventually manifests as a masked guest at a ball.
- Stargate SG-1 had Linnea, 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 SG-1 into letting her escape with them from the prison they were all in.
- They later unwittingly ran into Linnea on another planet, Vyas, where she managed to create another plague despite the planet's 1920s-era technology. However, this plague had the effect of de-aging everyone and wiping their memories. As a result, she doesn't remember who she is. They let her live after convincing her not to take the treatment she develops.
- And then there was Nirti - a Goa'uld interested in biology and virology.
- And the Ori Priors
- The damned soul of the week from the Brimstone episode "Carrier."
- Pestilence from Supernatural, obviously.
- The test subjects from the Doctor Who episode "New Earth". Cloned humans that are a living collection of various ailments, they killed whoever they touched by infecting them with their diseases.
- Hus from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Pangs" magically infected Xander with diseases brought to North America by European settlers.
- In the Charmed episode Awakened, Piper is dying of a disease, and Prue and Phoebe become desperate enough to try and cure her with magic. It works, but unfortunately the doll used in the spell becomes animate, and has the power to infect people with the disease by poking them with its sword.
- Jha'dur from Babylon 5 was a war criminal infamous for at least one case of exterminating a whole planetary population with Stafford's Plague.
- Two episodes of Body of Proof revolved around an eco-terrorist who aimed to combat overpopulation by infecting himself with a particularly strong virus related to Ebola and spreading it around the city by smearing his blood on things that a lot of people touched, like the handrails on subway steps.
- The Law & Order episode "Carrier" has the detectives tracking down a street kid with AIDS who deliberately intends to infect as many girls with HIV as possible.
Mythology and Religion
- Polytheistic religions sometimes have deities of disease and sickness:
- Finnish: Kipu-tyttö - 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.
- Greek: Apollo, which is rather ironic considering he is also a god of light.
- Mesopotamian: Nergal, the god of war, death, disease, and the underworld. He was associated with the midday sun and the summer solstice, and the terrible heat that came with them.
- Egyptian: The war goddess Sekhmet was primarily a goddess of righteousness, but could be a complete Knight Templar about it. Her attributes were derived from Ra, the sun, but she embodied the destructive aspects of it, with disease, the destructive heat of the sun, and infertility to crops being some of them.
- The Nuckelavee, an evil, ocean-dwelling fairy from Scottish folklore.
- Some of the demons described in the Ars Goetia could be called upon to evoke various kinds of this. Thing is, only one of them, Marbas, was a generalist (his other powers being curing disease, and Baleful Polymorph. One leads to quite a con game, the other to the ultimate in biological warfare). Leraje, Sabnock, and Vepar apparently all specialized in battlefield disease. Leraje caused arrow wounds to putrefy, while Sabnock and Vepar called maggots in to colonize wounds in general.
- In Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, this is the portfolio of the Chaos God Nurgle. He spreads terrible diseases and plagues, and recruits from victims who in their delirium turn to him as a way to end their suffering - he is the god of stagnation and despair, after all, and gains his power from his adherents abandoning all hope and throwing themselves at his mercy. Nurgle's disciples tend to be bloated with rot, but as part of their deity's favor are unable to die from the poxes they carry. Some of his servants even become supernaturally strong or enduring because of their corruption, enabling them to work tirelessly to spread 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 showing his affection for his worshipers by inventing disgusting new diseases for them to enjoy.
- Also in Warhammer, the Skaven (a race of humanoid rats) have a clan dedicated to cataloging, creating and spreading diseases.
- It is rumored that Nurgle loves all life equally. That is, he values a human just as much as a bacterium. Since they outnumber us billions to one, you get the god of plagues.
- 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.
- Also horrifically broken because of the very book it was printed in (one of the diseases gives you Stat Bonuses, and you become immune to the drawbacks).
- However, its final power is becoming the disease itself and infecting people. This would be all well and good if most worlds didn't have lots of clerics, who can kill the Cancer mage with a 3rd level spell if the CM fails their weakest save. Cancer mages tend not to use that ability outside of settings where the gods have legged it.
- A number of these appear in Deadlands:
- Pathfinder includes several of these:
- Pestilence, of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is one of the four rulers of the Daemons.
- The Pairaka of the Divs is a species of these — horribly, they're the Div equivalent to Succubi, using their sex appeal to lure mortals into physical congress and then sending them off dying of disease.
- One of the Alchemist archetypes is the Plaguebringer, from the Advanced Races Guide sourcebook, whose specialty revolves around creating disease weapons and toxic bombs instead of using mutagen. It's most associated with the Ratfolk race, in a Shout-Out to the Skaven above. Even outside of this archetype, alchemists can still build towards this, with powers inspired by other examples from this section (including the ability to turn a tumor into a familiar - and this version can detach itself and act like an animal).
- Vampire: The Requiem features the Morbus bloodline of the Mekhet. Every single one carries a disease in their blood, they can only feed effectively off of diseased mortals, and they have a bloodline-only Discipline that allows them to diagnose, halt, and aid the spread of disease. They're also persona non grata in many domains, as the CDC popping in to inspect that sudden outbreak of the bubonic plague can risk the Masquerade.
- In a way, the Anvari (who feed off of drug-laden blood and can alter body chemistry to be under the effects of various narcotics with their bloodline Discipline) and the Brothers of Ypres (who need "tainted" blood, but prefer poison, since their founder mutated as a result of feeding on those dying of chemical weapon attacks in World War One) are a Poisonous Person equivalent to the Morbus.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the wererats are almost a race of these. Unlike other werebeasts, who are born with their abilities, wererats create more of their kind by inflicting a lycanthropic infection on their human and rat relatives. They're generally batshit insane and their goal, besides saving the universe from the conformity-obsessed Weaver by plunging it into screaming chaos, is to "reduce" the human population using plagues. The Plague Lords are the most obsessed with this tack.
- Demnogonis from Mutant Chronicles is Warhammer's Nurgle in different clothes.
- 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 Tinnote .
- In the Warcraft III map-game Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars, the Venomancer is a creature that mastered the use of poisons.
- Warlocks and Death Knights each have a talent tree focused on this kind of stuff (the Warlock one doesn't actually use diseases but corrupting magical effects, but with talents with names like "pandemic" and "contagion" I'd say it's close enough).
- The Necromancer in Diablo 2 has a whole skilltree devoted to poisons.
- 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.
- Kurodani Yamame from Touhou, the local spider girl. Actually a fairly nice youkai, as she tries not to actively use her powers unless she's angry— but Symposium of Post-Mysticism suggests that she unwittingly leaks plague, and that the heroines of Subterranean Animism both came home with fevers.
- Medicine Melancholy is truer to this trope, given that she loves to patter on about the effects of her poisons.
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines features a doomsday cult calling themselves the Ninth Circle who operate like this. Since vampires in this system become permanent disease carriers if they feed from anyone with a blood-borne illness, they've decided to spread disease in an attempt to hasten Gehenna.
- Dagoth Ur from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind could be somewhat of an example. He uses his magically-achieved godhood to spread coprus disease across the island of Vvardenfell. If the disease is left unchecked, it horribly disfigures and kills its victims, but if he uses his power to direct the disease, the disfigurations make the infected into powerful, mindless servants to help him.
- Pestilence from Hexen II.
- Dr. Thrax, a GLA general from Command & Conquer: Generals. He has a scarred face that he covers with a veil, as well as a morbid sense of humor. He got his degree from a mail-order college.
- Caulder/Stolos, the Big Bad of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. He used a Synthetic Plague called the Creeper to test the effects of "trauma from dying from infection" on the survivors of a world-ending apocalypse For Science!, and apparently thought it all good fun.
- Captain Quirk (yes, a parody of who you think) in Space Quest 5. He is using his ship to illegally dump toxic waste on "unimportant" planets and ends up infected by the garbage.
- Thorne in Tron 2.0. Alan Bradley does not bluff about the nasty consequences of going into cyberspace without the proper precautions in place... Thorne ends up as this thing that infects other Programs and overruns Encom's servers. He ends up succumbing to the effects of it and an ass-kicking by the Infiltration Countermeasure Kernel
- The Darkspawn of Dragon Age are (among other things) a whole race of Plaguemasters, though your party won't need to worry about being infected.
- Lilith in Borderlands has elemental powers as her hat, and although corrosives are mechanically acids, they spread like a virus, the elemental logo is a biohazard sign and the weapon descriptions ("Defiler", "Pestilent", "Infectious") reference disease. A class mod for her that focuses on this element is even called the Plaguebearer.
- Maya in the sequel has more corrosive-focused powers, even having the ability to create a cloud of acid simply by shooting someone. She even has a special class mod that boosts the damage and chance of corrosive damage called Witch.
- EverQuest has Bertoxxulous, an actual god of disease, with a Plane of Disease to call home.
- Mordekaiser in League of Legends is an odd example in that his in-game abilities are based on control of metal, but is nevertheless drawn to disease and pollution and his touch causes sickness. It's suggested that his armor mostly protects those around him from the disease he would spread if not contained, although whether it's a prison or a courtesy is unknown.
- Rotund'jere the Necrolyte from Dota 2 was a priest who was purposefully infected with a horrible plague as a punishment for embezzling people dying from it, and cursed with longevity so he could suffer a slow death at the hands of the disease. Instead of dying, he became empowered by it and decided to 'share' his new gift with the world.
- The necromancer class of Guild Wars 2 can easily become one of these if built properly, but their Plaguemaster tendencies really shine when they use their elite skill, Plague, which turns them into a literal cloud of pestilence that damages, poisons, bleeds, weakens, blinds, and cripples all enemies stupid enough to get too close. For extra malice, the necromancer can choose exactly when they wish to apply most of these conditions.
- Warlords Battlecry III has a whole bunch of these as an entire playable faction, the Plaguelords. Practically all of their units can infect enemies with their basic attacks, and their armies are composed of slimy Blob Monsters, rotting undead troops and not-so-dead priests, and mutated beasts like eyeballs and hydras.
- Tears To Tiara 2 has The King of Death. He magically spreads The Black Death throughout the setting's counterpart to Western Europe, including areas controlled by his own side. He also turns all wheat into poisonous black wheat.
- The SCP Foundation has an SCP that can collect, modify, and distribute diseases, up to and including the infamous 1918 strain of influenza. She temporarily experiences symptoms of the diseases as she's modifying them, but this doesn't dissuade her from doing it.
- SCP-106 is an extension of this and Walking Wasteland, as it's a pocket-dimension dwelling Humanoid Abomination in the form of an extremely old, hideously diseased man covered in necrosis. The lucky victims die. Survivors look like corpses who have been festering in mass graves for several years, eyes, tongue, most of their extremities, all rotted off.
- Then, of course, there's SCP-049 AKA "The Plague Doctor." SCP-1440 could also count to some extent.
- The Plague Doctor from The Fear Mythos spreads disease wherever he goes. To a lesser extent, there are also a number of seemingly normal medical doctors who serve him, and intentionally spread disease to the people they're supposedly trying to save.
- "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. Still, she gets an honorary mention on this page.
- Then there's the various tales of people with AIDS knowingly infecting unwitting victims for one reason or another. The most famous would probably be flight attendant Gaetan "Patient Zero" Dugas, though later evidence suggests that in his case at least, this is an exaggeration.
- There's been at least one case of a prisoner murdering a guard by jabbing him with a syringe filled with his own HIV-infected blood.
- Tragically (or horrifically), raping victims to deliberately spread AIDS is a tactic used commonly by AIDS-infected militia members in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Any Bio-terrorist qualifies.