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Deceased and Diseased

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In works of fiction, the undead are common enemies for the heroes to face. A common trait of them is for the undead in question to be portrayed as poisonous or filled with disease, and they may spread death wherever they go.

On the surface, this seems a perfectly logical conclusion. Zombies are likely going to be rotting corpses with bodies filled with who-knows-what types of disease. In the world of gaming, this gives undead enemies an elemental affinity with disease and poisons, though darkness is another common trait. General status ailments are also liable to be in their arsenal of attacks. This overall makes the undead, which tend to be weak and easily dispatched, more dangerous without necessarily making them more powerful in direct combat.

Compare Zombie Infectee, The Virus, and Poisonous Person.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yami Yugi forces a Fusion Dance between his undead Mammoth Graveyard and Kaiba's Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon. The improper fusion between a living and undead creature causes the Blue-Eyes to become diseased and begin to decay and lose strength every turn.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Ex-Heroes, it's eventually discovered that there is a "zombie virus", but it doesn't kill the host (and, in fact, almost everyone is already carrying it). It's the host of other diseases that the zombies are incubating that kill the subject. This is why massive doses of antibiotics worked in early cases, but ceased to be of use as immunodeficiency diseases, viruses, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria got added to the mix.
  • In The Twilight Saga, vampires don't merely drain their victims of blood, they transform them by injecting them with actual venom that infects and transforms them. Said venom can be extracted from a vampire and injected to turn someone without needing to bite them.

  • Vampires in the old folk stories are often associated with plague; not merely acquiring the condition like it is in modern-day vampirism, but the mere fact that they invisibly sneak around murdering people like a plague. Illnesses such as tuberculosis may also have directly contributed to vampire myths, weakening the sick person in a manner that made it seem like something was leeching away at their health.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons, many types of undead can inflict poison, disease, and other debilitating ailments like level drain.
    • Dragon issue #25, article "Varieties of Vampires" . A human spattered by the blood of an Anananngel vampire is afflicted by sores and diseases that incapacitate them.
    • Mummies inflict a rotting disease by touch that drains 2 points of Charisma per month, neutralizes Cure Wound spells, reduces the natural healing rate to 10% of normal and is fatal in 1-6 months.
    • Atropals are Undead Abominations animated from stillborn gods; their aura inflicts ten Negative Levels on everything nearby, enough to kill any non-legendary character outright.
    • In 5th edition, sufficiently powerful undead blight the land around their lairs. For example, a vampire's territory can cause Ominous Fog and wither all plants within hundreds of feet.
  • Shadowrun. Several Awakened creatures were the basis for Earthly legends of the undead (ghouls, vampires, wendigos, etc.). All of them were human beings infected with a magical disease that caused their condition: the HMHVV (Human Meta Human Vampiric Virus), with many variants that each created a specific undead.
    • The Infected in Shadowrun, however, are still biologically alive, albeit frequently brain damaged due to the trauma of their transformation.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade. Some products noted that vampires could act as carriers of blood-borne diseases. This meant they could infect any human they fed upon if the vampire didn't drain enough blood to kill the victim. One of the strongest examples of this in the 20th Anniversary Edition is Rabbat, a luckless Nosferatu who ended up on the Red List (the Camarilla's list of "Kill on sight for fabulous prizes" vampires) because she became host to a version of the Black Death that people fear could mutate to not just contaminate, but affect, other vampires.
    • Then there's the Lamia, a rare bloodline of the Cappadocians whose curse involved spreading a nigh-fatal plague to anyone they fed upon.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has plague zombies, who are humans who have fallen victim to one of Nurgle the plaguefather's many plagues. The diseases they are infected by allow them to become almost incapable of feeling pain, making them walking meatshields.

    Video Games 
  • Gravelord Nito is stated in the opening cinematic of Dark Souls to have weaved a "miasma of disease and death", implying this trope. Similarly, the Gravelord greatsword players can get from joining his covenant causes toxic build-up further reinforcing the image.
  • Dead Space features the Necromorphs, who will infect anyone they come into contact with. In particular, there are people who were stranded and starving, and took to eating people that died... before wasting away and becoming Technically Living Zombies themselves.
  • There are mummified undead enemies in Diablo II which release a cloud of toxic corpse gas when defeated.
  • In the earlier Disgaea games, many Zombie skills can inflict the poison status. By the third game, the Poisonous Person class has been relegated to the Slimes.
  • The Elder Scrolls series treats vampirism as a disease. There are different strains of the disease with names like Porphyric Hemophilia and Sanguinare Vampiris, which will cause the PC to mutate into a vampire if they are infected with them and don't cure themselves quickly enough. Depending on the game, vampires may spread other diseases to the player as well. The fact that it's a preventable disease is also a reason why vampires are so despised: anyone who doesn't bother to get himself cured must be a total scumbag. (Though as several cases in the lore prove, it isn't always this simple...)
    • It's also very common in the series for zombies of various stripes to have a random chance to inflict you with a disease of some kind if their attacks connect. In Oblivion the highest tier of zombie is afflicted with a magic disease that cuts through any and all forms of disease immunity you can acquire.
  • Plague Zombies in Fall from Heaven are undead mooks available for any faction willing to follow the Ashen Veil religion. They carry diseases which heavily debuff their stats (which can be cured to make them very efficiently-costed for their technology level) and which are passed on to any enemy that kills them.
  • Final Fantasy, undead enemies often inflict status ailments.
    • Final Fantasy IV, Scarmiglione is the Archfiend of Earth and is an undead being that controls zombies, and inflicts status ailments like Curse and Poison. This is noted in a famous Hyadain remix of their battle theme, where Scarmiglione remarks he thought he was the Archfiend of Poison.
    • In Final Fantasy VI where Poison is treated as one of the eight elemental affinities, the Skull Dragon represents poison but is clearly an undead entity, and fights with status ailment attacks.
    • In the same game, the undead Phantom Train uses status attacks, most prominently Diabolical Whistle, which inflicts one random status ailment on each party member. When the Phantom Train reappears as a Guardian Force in Final Fantasy VIII, its special attack inflicts every status ailment in the game on enemy parties.
    • Final Fantasy VIII also features the Gerogero, a deformed zombie that attacks with status effects. Gerogero's card reveals that it's a poison-elemental monster.
  • A pseudo-example in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas: the Ghouls are actually humans who have been heavily mutated, but look, act, and are regarded by many as traditional zombies. Their attacks infect the player with radiation damage.
  • Appears in some of the Heroes of Might and Magic games:
    • In III and V, zombies can be upgraded to inflict diseases when they attack living enemies; diseased creatures take a penalty to their attack stat, reducing the damage they do.
    • In VI, the necromancer armies deploy lamasu, zombie sphinxes which are infected with plague magic and then sent to spread disease amongst the enemy army.
  • In Shadowrun Returns, ghouls are able to infect characters (including robots) they hit with their claws and deal Damage Over Time.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines brings in the tabletop game's assertion of Kindred potentially becoming host to bloodborne diseases in the form of the Brotherhood of the Ninth Circle, a doomsday cult trying to speed the end times every vampire fears by feeding on and infecting the humans of Los Angeles with a highly fatal plague. As this is drawing the attention of the CDC, it falls on you to clean up the mess before there's a Masquerade breach.
  • The undead provinces in the browser MMORTS Utopia usually have the "Spreads plague" property, which means that every time you attack or steal from them (or vice versa), there is a chance of carrying The Plague into your province, which can then spread into other provinces the same way. Of course, the undead provinces themselves are immune to plague themselves — being already dead and all.
  • The Undead faction in Warcraft III can research the Disease ability, which lets their Abominations and siege weapons create clouds of poisonous gas when attacking.
  • Zombidle: One of Bob the Necromancer's zombie minions is "The Big Plague", and his special abilities are all named after disease (Chickenpox, Smallpox, Bieberpox and Blackest of Plagues).