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Make Them Rot

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And unto dust you shall return.

"My touch brings decay! I rot you in the name of the law!"
Judge Mortis, Judge Dredd

A character has the power to make things decompose. This may require physical contact. In some cases, this may manifest as the ability to induce Rapid Aging. Exactly what this looks like varies from work to work — some will depict this as active rot and necrosis, while others opt for less visceral versions where affected people crumble into ash or dust instead.

This is not exactly a power one would associate with heroes, by default — generally speaking, characters with the ability to make flesh rot on living people's bones will be either villains or mindless monsters.

If a character can't turn their power off, they are also a Walking Wasteland. Sometimes this power may even work on non-organic material. This can be considered as the opposite of Green Thumb (but sometimes can be used to create fertiliser).

Compare Plaguemaster and Enemy to All Living Things. Contrast Fertile Feet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Chirizuka Kaiou is a spirit born from dust that can rapidly corrode things, including everything around it and whatever is hit by gusts of wind from his fan. It doesn't cause living thing to actually rot until the power spreads through their whole body, which will be reversed if Kaiou is defeated quickly, but the victim will still be incapacitated and in pain in the meantime. Significantly powerful ayakashi are simply immune to its effect.
  • Berserk: Once Guts' companions have evacuated the women and children of Enoch village from the trolls' den in the astral world's region of darkness, Qliphoth, Schierke destroys the pursuing trolls and seals the portal between worlds by acting as a Willing Channeler to a nature spirit of the place. A hulking figure made of roots that looms behind Schierke while using her body as a puppet, it calls itself the Rotting Root Lord, chief of rotting trees and putrid mud. Through Schierke's body it speaks the command, "ROT." and blows air upon the ground, which upon touching the trolls causes them to instantly decompose into a steaming heap of putrid, almost liquified carcasses.
  • Bleach: Baraggan Louisenbairn's Respira causes everything it touches to age rapidly. Stone crumbles, spells fade away and flesh rots.
  • Blue Exorcist has Astaroth, the King of Rot, and his kin. He has yet to make an appearance himself but his "pet", the Impure King, was a major antagonist.
  • In Episode 13 of Doki Doki! PreCure, Regina makes a rose bush wither and rot with just the snap of her fingers.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Cell's absorption of humans is a horrific cross between this and I'm Melting!; he stabs them with his tail, and the victim decomposes and gets sucked into his tail, leaving their clothes behind. Piccolo (and the audience) sees first-hand the gruesome process happen to someone when he first encounters Cell.
  • Gakuen Alice: Persona, the supervisor of the Dangerous Ability group has the "Mark of Death" Alice, where everything he touches rots away and eventually dies.
  • Inuyasha: Sesshomaru's ultimate sword, Bakusaiga, instantly rots any organic material it cuts. The rotting effect spreads, so the only way to survive it is to cut off the affected parts.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Pannacotta Fugo's Stand, Purple Haze, creates a flesh eating virus in the capsules on its knuckles. When the capsule is cracked open, the virus spreads and any living thing within the range will be infected and rot away. The Stand is said to be a representation of Fugo's violent side, and was only called upon as a last resort, being used only once throughout the whole story.
  • Medaka Box: Emukae Mukae has this as her minus, Raff-Rafflesia. She can make things rot by touching them. She can control the intensity and way things decompose, but she can't turn it off. Later she learns to do it "wirelessly".
  • My Hero Academia: Tomura Shigaraki's "Decay" Quirk can't be turned off, but only works if he touches something with all five fingers. When it first activated it hadn't completely materialized, so instead of disintegrating objects to dust it forcibly tore them apart into bloody chunks for living beings (as was the case with his family). After he goes through training, personal revelations, and physical augmentation, his Decay Quirk improves to the point anything that touches something that's already decaying will also decay, he can launch it as a wave capable of destroying buildings, and he doesn't even need to touch it with all his fingers anymore. He also can finally choose to turn it off, allowing him to hold things without worrying about breaking something he doesn't want to.
  • One Piece:
    • Crocodile's Sand-Sand fruit not only lets him turn into sand, but he can even suck moisture from whatever he touches, leaving barely alive mummified husks in his wake.
    • Shinobu's Juku Juku no Mi is a rare heroic example, allowing her to make inanimate objects age and rot away.
    • Jewelry Bonney similarly displays the ability to make inorganic matter age and crumble away. She can do it to people too, but the effect lasts only an instant and then it's instantly reversed... Although the experience is so traumatic that most victims lose all will to fight.
  • Sola: Matsuri Shihou has this power, and as long as she makes direct physical contact she can make nearly anything, from metal and stone to flesh and bone, rapidly decay.
  • In Undead Unluck, Spoil is the embodiment of decay and has been having fun with zombifying the entire population of a town. Depending on what form it takes, it can either activate decay on a human once a countdown on their torso reaches zero or just rot or disintegrate away anything that gets too close to it. As it's the embodiment of decay, the heroes cannot kill it, as otherwise nothing will rot or decompose in the universe. Instead, because organisms can only decay where there's moisture, they send Spoil out into space, where there is no moisture nearby.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman villains Clayface III (Preston Payne) and Clayface V (Cassius "Clay" Payne) could make the bodies of living creatures melt by touching them. Clayface VI (Dr. Peter Malley) could make them melt without touching them.
  • Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers: Ursan the Unclean was a villain with the power to turn whoever he touched into a pile of bones and dust.
  • DP7: Dennis "Skuzz" Skuzinski's acidic skin makes everything he touches rot or burn away, including his clothes.
  • Irredeemable: DK is a minor villain who has the power to make people rot.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Mortis is one of the four dreaded Dark Judges who periodically break into the reality of Mega City One. He has the power to induce instant mortification and decay in anything he touches. Nope, not just organic matter. Think you're safe hiding behind that wall? Keep running.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Spider-Man:
      • Carrion can cause organic matter to rot with a touch.
      • DK can cause a person to immediately dissolve by touching them.
    • Strikeforce: Morituri: Blackthorne can break the molecular bonds of whatever she touches, causing it to rot and dissolve.
    • X-Men:
      • Wither has the power to decay any organic material his skin comes in contact with. Power Incontinence leaves his power permanently on. Especially heartbreaking is when the majority of mutants in the world lose their ability, Wither mistakenly believes he has too. He grabs the wrist of the girl he is in love with and her hand withers away. Clearly, he should have tested it first... He eventually left the institute and fell in love with Selene, who was immortal and couldn't be affected by his power, before being killed off by Elixir. For a while, anyways.
      • Death, the son of Apocalypse, combines this power with Deadly Gaze.

    Films — Animated 
  • Epic (2013): The Big Bad Mandrake fires arrows tipped with a special poison that rots plants and can instantly kill (and fully decay) an animal.
  • Heavy Metal (1981): The Loc-Nar can give off a green energy that causes highly accelerated decomposition. If used on living creatures it causes death ("Grimaldi", "Harry Canyon"). If used on dead bodies it makes their flesh rot away and turns them into animated skeletons ("B-17").

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Everworld: All witches — including Senna — have poisonous blood that kills plants, though apparently not animals or people. It can even render land infertile, which is why (in Everworld at least) witches are always killed in ways that won't shed blood, like drowning or burning.
  • Forest Kingdom: This is the power of the sword Wolfsbane, one of the Infernal Devices. It literally rots its way through whatever it hits, and consequently is the only thing that can really kill the Beast in book 3 (Down Among the Dead Men).
  • Journey to Chaos: This is a standard power of Grim Reapers because all things eventually decay and die. It can also be used by nercomancers. During Looming Shadow, Eric steals Reno Grade's Senescence necra podesta and thereby gains the power to decay physical objects.
  • Lilith's Brood: The Oankali aliens have innate powers of Biomanipulation, which they can also use to make organic matter decompose. They refuse to kill and have much more efficient ways to neutralize living enemies anyway, but it's handy for breaking through wooden doors.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy does this to the main characters in the first story of The Nightmares on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger's Seven Sweetest Dreams.
  • The Nightmare Room book "Liar Liar" has the protagonist Ross fall into an almost identical parallel universe...except that his cells are unstable as a result of being dimensionally displaced. He learns that when an "intruder" touches a living thing, the ensuing chemical reaction will (occasionally) disintegrate them in a shockingly graphic and painful way. Worst of all, this will soon happen to himself unless he gets back to his home dimension.
  • Ravenloft: Vampire of the Mists features the Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Jander getting transported into the Land of Mists, a plane cobbled together by dark powers that torment the various powerful lords and supernatural beings caught inside it for their own pleasure. Jander uses various things, including growing a garden, to distract himself from the curse of being a vampire, so the dark powers decide to screw with him by making it so that his touch will cause plant life to wither and die.
  • Ravenor: The daemon Slyte has the power to make people rot away into desiccated mummies with a touch, and its mere presence tarnishes silver. Carl Thonius inherits these powers after becoming the daemon’s vessel, and uses them to kill Jader Trice while Slyte itself kills Orfeo Culzean.
  • Brandon Sanderson:
  • Shadow Ops has random people manifesting powerful magical powers. On rare occasions one of these powers is Negramancy, the power to accelerate entropy. When it is used, objects crumble to dust in seconds and living things start to rot and decay. The power is casually called Witchcraft or Black Magic and its use is prohibited under the penalty of death.
  • The Tamuli: This is one of the many powers the Delphae possess from being Cursed with Awesome by their god. Being Perfect Pacifist People, this causes them some serious emotional difficulty when they're recruited into the war and have to goo-ify a few enemy camps on their own. However, rotting away walls and scaring soldiers into running away works as well, due to their reputation of doing precisely that.
  • Beware of Chicken has two variants:
    • Protagonist Jin Rou has growth-aligned qi, which naturally lends itself to to making plants and animals grow faster and healthier. Unfortunately, this also means that if he invests his qi into foodstuffs, they spoil more quickly due to his qi boosting the growth of bacteria and molds.
    • His wife Meiling, on the other hand, has natural medicinal qi, which kills microorganisms and can be used to sterilize surfaces and purify foodstuffs or water.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed (1998):
    • One episode deals with a demon of vanity that can de-age others and make them young and healthy again. He then shows that he can also reverse this and rapidly ages two women into piles of dust.
    • A later bad guy uses a spell to accomplish the same feat on a minor of his that has disappointed him.
  • A Villain of the Week named Clive Yorkin has this ability in The Flash (2014). He can use it to kill people by making them decay at accelerated rates and can turn anything he touches to dust.
  • The Gifted (2017): Reed Strucker begins developing this power in season two, which had previously been suppressed by his father's experimental treatments.
  • Haven: Season one's "Consumed" features a childhood friend of Duke's whose Trouble is that he makes food rot. He is, unfortunately, a professional chef.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "One for the Angels", Death proves his identity to Lou Bookman by touching a flower, which dies instantly.
    • In "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank", the fresh roses that the title character picks for Comfort Gatewood die within minutes of his touching them. This causes her to worry that the townsfolk's fears that Jeff Came Back Wrong may be justified.


    Tabletop Games 
  • DC Heroes has the Cell Rot power, which can cause any living or formerly living substance to decompose. If used on a living creature it's treated as a normal Physical attack. The Batman villain Clayface III (Preston Payne) had this power.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In general, the necrotic/negative energy damage, which overlaps with Casting a Shadow, typically works by causing necrosis and rapid tissue death.
    • Rot trolls are so saturated with negative energy that they cause any creature within five or so feet of them to suffer necrotic damage.
    • A nothic's or catoblepas' gaze causes necrosis in beings caught in its line of sight, rotting away their flesh as they live.
    • If a violet fungus hits a living creature with one of its branches, the creature has to make a saving throw versus poison or have its flesh rot and its body decompose.
    • In 4th Edition, gibbering orbs can fire flesheating rays that cause their targets to suffer necrotic damage.
    • In 5th Edition, the topaz dragons' desiccating breath weapon is recast as a cone of negative energy that induces rapid decay in its victims.
  • Earthdawn: Nethermancers have a starting-level spell called Putrefy. Its official target is food, apparently just to annoy people and be a jerk. However, it can actually be used against any dead organic matter, allowing you to, for instance, destroy the wooden bridge under someone's feet, or make an enemy mage's spellbook fall apart.
  • Exalted: Messing with the Abyssal Exalted is a bad idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their ability to inflict this sort of damage on people.
  • In Nomine: The Calabim are surrounded by invisible fields of entropy that can break down the integrity of any ordered structures within their reach.
  • Mage: The Awakening: Mages can use the Death Arcanum to induce various forms of rot and decay on objects or lifeforms, including with that Arcanum's signature attack spell. Said spell inflicts hefty social penalties on the victim on top of the usual damage, because its effects are just that gross.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
  • Marvel Super Heroes: The Ultimate Powers Book expansion includes the Biophysical Control/Decay power, which just as it says it causes the targets to decay and if the damage is greater than the health of the target it quickly rots away to nothing.
  • Nightbane: There is a spell in one of the supplements that decays flesh until nothing remains. It's intended for heroes and villains to remove the remains of their victims.
  • Pathfinder: Sepsidaemons embody death from gangrene, infection and necrosis, and happily spread this fate to others through their corrosive touch and their ability to make any wound go septic in their presence.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The leaders of the Cult of the Rusted Claw are host to metallophagic nano-organisms that cause any metal, including adamantium, to instantly rust at their touch. Their Entropic Touch Warlord Trait in 8th Edition increases the chance of attacks penetrating a nearby enemy's armour.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Alarielle, the Goddess of life magic, wears the Talon of Dwindling, a weapon representing the withering of vegetation as winter approaches that is capable of turning enemies into lifeless husks with the slightest touch.


    Video Games 
  • Breath of Fire sometimes features attacks that inflict the "rotting" condition on an ally. For one full turn they get a decent boost to their attack stat, but turn into a zombie in the next turn and start automatically attacking their allies.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: The Fleshrot contact poison makes the victim rot from the inside.
  • Elden Ring has the infamous Scarlet Rot, which does a lot of Damage Over Time quite quickly, and is known in the lore to drive its victims to madness. Malenia, the Blade of Miquella, is incredibly dangerous because the Outer God of Rot chose her to be its vessel, and "blessed" her with its power, which is just as deadly to her as it is to everyone else, as it's slowly eating away at her body, and three of her limbs have already rotted off, requiring prosthetic replacements. She doesn't like to use her rot powers, but circumstances sometimes force her hand. You can be one of those circumstances.
  • Grim Dawn: The Occultist class has a skill, "Bloody Pox," which is upgraded to The Black Death as its capstone. Its flavor text states that the organs of the afflicted are rotting, and the pain and fever drives them insane.
  • Killer Instinct: Kan-Ra is a victim of this trope after a botched assassination of a Babylonian king, having been rotting for hundreds of years per punishment and is still trying to slow down the process. He... doesn't look pretty, to say the least.
  • Minecraft: The Wither status effect is inflicted by Wither Skeletons and the Wither. It turns the affected player's hearts black — making it hard to see their remaining health — and steadily drains health. Unlike Poison. which cannot drain past the final hit point, Wither can kill, and if it does so it gives the death message "(player) withered away".
  • Mortal Kombat: Starting in Mortal Kombat X, Ermac's body begins to rot, since Shao Kahn is now dead and he needs his magic to keep his human look.
  • Warcraft II: Death Knights have the Death and Decay ability, which does devastating amounts of damage in a huge area as long as they have runic power. Back in Warcraft III, the ability was the Scourge hero, the Lich's, ultimate ability (and one of the most powerful in the game, almost being a Game-Breaker). Death and Decay had a smaller area, did percentage-of-maximum-health as continuous damage (4% health per second for 35 seconds!), and killed trees.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-073, better known as the biblical Cain, withers all plant matter in a small radius around himself.
    • SCP-106 does this to absolutely everything he comes into contact with.
    • SCP-734 is an otherwise-normal baby whose cells cause others' living cells to rot away layer by layer, starting with skin flaking off and eventually causing flesh and bone to be "eaten away". The Foundation uses his blood as a weapon and has plans to train him as a Tyke Bomb when he grows up.
    • SCP-811 has this effect on living things due to the mucus she secretes from her palms and soles. The foundation even tried to use it to melt SCP-682. They didn't put her in the chamber with him, for obvious reasons, instead they just scraped some of it off of her hands and feet over a period of time so they could spray it on him. Naturally, it didn't work.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Several real-life venomous animals — such as the puff adder and the brown recluse spider — contain a large amount of cytotoxins in their venom, i.e. they're toxic on a cellular level. Symptoms of cytotoxic envenomation include localized necrosis, where cells simply die around the site of the venomous bite, leaving a nasty-looking patch of what is effectivelly rotted tissue. In the specific case of the brown recluse spider, the condition is called loxoscelism.
  • Severe infections (such as gangrene or necrotizing fasciitis) cause the tissues of the victim to decay. In fact, this is how one of the illnesses gets its name; necrotizing ("causing necrosis") fasciitis ("affecting the fascius," a layer of connective tissue between skin and muscle).



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