Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Conversion: Plaguebearers of Nurgle for D&D

Dungeons and Hammers

So I appear to be converting Warhammer-mythos creatures for Dungeons and Dragons. Right. Okay.

After my opening act with the Horrors of Tzeentch, I was planning to work on Flamers. I quickly realised this was an issue because they’ve changed their tone several times over iterations of the game, and I was struggling to pin them down. This makes conversion a pain, and I decided to let them be for now. Instead, a simpler task: the Plaguebearers of Nurgle.

Plaguebearers of Nurgle for 3.5


These loathsome creatures are crafted from the blighted souls of mortals who have been slain by the virulent plague known as Nurgle's Rot. These Lesser Daemons of the Lord of Decay are shambling, pustulent creatures. Plaguebearers have gangling, bony limbs, their bodies swollen with decay, so much so that glistening innards are exposed through rents in their skin. They possess a single, cyclopean eye and a single horn rising above their haggard, drawn faces, their bodies covered in filth and parasites. Despite the Plaguebearer's unusual appearance, they are supernaturally resilient to harm, the gifts of their master having inured them to all pain. Plaguebearers are constantly surrounded by clouds of droning flies and chant monotonous hymns, their gait a staggering lope. Their sonorous voices attempt to keep count of the number of noxious plagues unleashed by Nurgle; an impossible task, for the Grandfather of Plagues constantly invents new strains of viruses. They also serve as the "Tallymen of Nurgle," eternally bound to record all of their Dark God’s pestilential creations. Many believe that Plaguebearers are in fact created by such diseases, incubating within plague victims and feeding upon their dying energies, only to later fully emerge from their heaped bodies.

The attitude of a Plaguebearer is often more frightening to mortals than their appearance. They solemnly drudge along, steady in the suffering and despair they cause. This is not some sadistic pleasure, like that of Slaanesh, but rather a determined appreciation of Nurgle's genius, a devotion to his art and an acknowledgment of the eventual disintegration of all things. Their wish to spread disease is driven by their wish to share their Father's gifts with the galaxy. As they march, they chant out the list of poxes, plagues, and pestilence their Father has created, ever certain in their growing number and increasing virulence. Bands of Plaguebearers are the most organised and efficient of Daemons upon the battlefield, shambling purposefully towards a chosen foe before hacking them apart with Plagueswords. Flies continually buzz around them, therefore making them more difficult to fight. The many diseases carried by these daemons can be used to terrible effect during battle. Should a foe endure long enough to strike back, his blows will have little effect on the Plaguebearers. Their corrupted forms feel no pain and regenerate damage at a frightening rate.

It is the Plaguebearer’s eternal role to herd Nurgle’s daemonic forces in battle. Other tasks of the Plaguebearers include keeping stock of the diseases, allocating appropriate fates to each new victim and attempting to maintain order among a naturally chaotic horde. They also constantly strive to number the poxes and represent the need of humanity to impose order on a chaotic and uncaring universe. These onerous duties have earned Plaguebearers the title of Nurgle’s Tallymen in popular lore.

Plaguebearers are a fairly classic, mediaeval European sort of demon: not predator-murderers like Khornate daemons, nor the sizzling weirdness of Tzeentch, but bringers of disease and death. They’re lumbering, repulsive and relentless. Plaguebearers don’t quite have the humorous touch of some other Nurglites, but their origin and their forced servitude does vaguely tie into the black humour associated with the Lord of Decay, for whom life itself is a cosmic joke. Warhammer itself plays up their combat prowess, of course, but I like to think they can be read as more complicated than simply trudging around hitting things with swords. Much of the time, in a game that isn't tactical wargaming, plaguebearers can be taking entirely different approaches to their mission, heavier on the actual plagues and less on the violence.

Statswise, plaguebearers are extremely tough, rather slow and sort of orc-level strong. Level is hard to judge, but I think we're looking at plaguebearers being somewhat above Horrors here, at maybe a 7; I'm quietly constructing a loose hierarchy of Chaos daemons in my head, with reference to existing demons and devils. As with most Warhammer daemons, they have communal magic, which in their case takes the form of many repulsive and disease-based spells. Despite this, they rely largely on close combat.

As I said last time:

Another problem is that demons in Warhammer tend to have a collective magic thing going on. Basically, as creatures of the Warp, they are made of the stuff of magic, and the more demons in an area, the greater their magical power becomes. This works fine in a tabletop wargame, where the maths balances out fairly well, but I'm concerned about translating it to an RPG where Challenge Rating is pretty crucial. If you think about it, the difference between five CR4 creatures who can cast flaming hands at will and ten CR4 creatures who can cast burning hands at will plus fireball once each per day is enormous. To look at ways to handle this, I've looked at kuo-toa clerics and the shocker lizard, both of which have similar abilities.

In Warhammer, plaguebearers may use several different powers; depending on the edition, that might be down to unit size, a random die roll during setup, or a straight-up purchase. I certainly can't afford for every plaguebearer to have stream of corruption or some such. However, unlike the horrors, Nurgle magic seems to offer a few fairly low-key possibilities in existing disease-themed spells like contagion and stinking cloud. However, I think I'd like to give them a communal power as well to emphasise the theme of these conversions, and their difference from existing creatures.

The closest matches I can see are a succubus and hellcat, both being evil outsiders. Both have somewhat different roles in the game: a succubus is very controlly, while hellcats' strongest point is their invisibility; in contrast, plaguebearers should be tough and repulsive. However, a succubus has got a clutch of minor at-will enchantment and divination powers, plus two teleportation options (pretty sick actually). Okay, I don't want that, but it's a loose guideline. They can also summon other demons.

I could allow plaguebearers to summon another plaguebearer, though I'm a little wary of that kind of thing. To be honest I'm not really seeing anything that's low enough level to fit and fits the disease theme. Special abilities it is!

Oh, and the obligatory starting point: a new subtype. While there's no particular canonical reason for the resistances, they're cribbed right off existing demons and seem appropriate. The immunities are canonical.

Nurglite subtype: daemons of Nurgle share the following properties:

  • Damage reduction 5/silver or lawful
  • Darkvision 60 ft.
  • Immunity to pain, disease and poison (mundane and magical)
  • Resistance to cold and electricity

Plaguebearer of Nurgle

This loathesome, shambling creature is filthy and clearly diseased. A single eye gazes around with quiet mockery, and a horn protrudes from its repellent face. Its limbs are gangly, and nearly skeletal, but the torso is bloated and swollen. Ulcers and welts pepper its sickly skin, and glistening organs are visible through festering rents in its hide. Clouds of insects buzz incessantly around the loping figure.

Plaguebearers of Nurgle are rotting, diseased servants of the Lord of Decay, said to be born from the souls of those slain by the vilest diseases. They constantly chant the names of diseases and other infestations, and are sometimes known as the Tallymen of Nurgle, bound to record all the repellent creations unleashed by their master. They are ungainly but extremely tough, and shamble forth with an air of great intentness, determined to fulfil their grim work in appreciation of Nurgle's artistry and the inevitability of decay. The weapons and bodies of plaguebearers carry Nurgle's rot, an ever-changing mass of disease and infestation that condemns those afflicted to slow, lingering deaths. While potent adversaries in combat, they are happy to guide cults of Nurgle, stalk the streets spreading disease, and silently bestow the virulent gifts of their Lord on the ungrateful world.

The magical power of plaguebearers grows as they congregate, until great clouds of decay boil around them. They are so burdened with disease and pain that plague, poison and injury mean nothing to them.

Size/Type: Medium Outsider (evil, extraplanar, chaotic, nurglite)
Hit Dice: 8d8+48 (87 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 13 (-1 Dex, +4 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+6
Attack: Longsword +11 melee (1d8+2 plus Nurgle's rot)
Full Attack: Longsword +11/+6 melee (1d8+2 plus Nurgle's rot)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Stream of corruption
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/silver or lawful, cloud of flies, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to pain, disease and poison, plague wind, resistance to cold 10 and electricity 10, spell resistance 18.
Saves: Fort 12, Ref 5, Will 7
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 8, Con 22, Int 13, Wis 13, Cha 8
Feats: Toughness, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Environment: The Warp
Organization: Gang (2-4), pack (5-10), mob (11-20)
Challenge Rating: 7
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 9-16 HD (Medium)
Level Adjustment:

A plaguebearer's natural weapons, as well as any weapons it wields, are treated as evil-aligned and chaotic-aligned for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Stream of Corruption (Ex):A plaguebearer can cough up a gust of foul vapour and noxious spray against an adjacent target. This is a ranged touch attack that does not provoke opportunity actions. On a successful attack, the target must pass a Fortitude save (DC 20) or be affected by poison (1D6 Con initial and secondary damage). The save DCs are Constitution-based.

Cloud of Flies (Ex): A perpetual cloud of corrupted vermin swirls around a plaguebearer, distracting and revolting mortals who approach. Any creature within 5 feet of a plaguebearer at the beginning of its turn must pass a Fortitude save (DC 20) each round or be sickened for 1 round. A creature already sickened becomes nauseated instead.

Plague Wind (Su): Two or more plaguebearers can combine their innate arcane energies to conjure a festering wind once every 1d6 rounds. The plaguebearers must join hands to focus their magic, but need merely remain within 30 feet of one another while it builds. The wind affects a 30ft. radius within 100ft and line of sight of at least one plaguebearer. All creatures within the blast suffer 1d4 damage per contributing plaguebearer, to a maximum of 15d4, and are nauseated for 1d4 rounds. They take a further 1d4 damage per round while nauseated. A successful Fortitude save (DC 15 + number of contributing plaguebearers) will halve the initial damage, negate the ongoing damage and leave creatures sickened instead of nauseated. Nurglite creatures and those immune to disease are unaffected by this ability. Remove disease will negate any ongoing effects.

For each creature that fails its saving throw, a Nurgling manifests within 5 feet of the victim.

Nurgle's Rot (Su): Supernatural disease, Fortitude DC 13, incubation period 1 minute; damage 1d6 Str and 1d6 Dex. The save DC is Charisma-based. A character reduced to 0 in one of these attributes will begin taking 1d6 Con damage in addition.

Unlike normal diseases, Nurgle's rot continues until the victim reaches Con 0 (and dies) or is cured.

Nurgle's rot is a powerful curse, not a natural disease. A character attempting to cast any conjuration (healing) spell on a creature afflicted with Nurgle's rot must succeed on a DC 20 caster level check, or the spell has no effect on the afflicted character. A character cannot benefit from a saving throw except when a healing spell is successfully cast.


These tiny tottering creatures are repulsive, yet almost appealing. They giggle wide-eyed as they bare their fangs, expressions of childish glee on their pestilent faces.

Size/Type: Tiny outsider (evil, extraplanar, chaotic, nurglite)
Hit Dice: 1d8+3 (7 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 30 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 Dex, +2 size), touch 14, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/-3
Attack: Claw +5 melee (1d3-1) or bite +3 melee (1d4-1 and sickened for 1 round)
Full Attack: Claw +5 melee (1d3-1)
Space/Reach: 2½ ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: -
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/silver or lawful, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to pain, disease and poison, resistance to cold 5 and electricity 5, spell resistance 6.
Saves: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +3
Abilities: Str 8, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 13, Cha 14
Feats: Weapon Finesse
Environment: The Warp
Organization: Gang (4-8), mob (10-30) or horde (50-100).
Challenge Rating: 1/4
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 2-3 HD (Tiny)
Level Adjustment:

Nurglings are the smallest of the Nurlite daemons, tiny balls of chaos and death that resemble diseased toddlers. Their warty faces are innocent and pleased, and they revel in the decay and destruction they bring just as a child might enjoy a favoured game. They are the children of Grandfather Nurgle, and readily manifest wherever plague and death can be found.

Plaguebearers for 4E

Plaguebearers have fewer complicated issues than the horrors did, and so I'll have less need for 4E's mechanics. On the other hand, 4E again has some advantages because it expects short-term status conditions, and this should be handy for modelling the various disease-themed powers.

Plaguebearers are simpler to model, too: they're clearly brutes, big and tough but easy to hit.

Plaguebearer of Nurgle Level 7 Brute
Medium immortal humanoid (demon, chaotic) XP 200
Initiative -1 Senses Perception +3; darkvision
HP 96; Bloodied 48
AC 19; Fortitude 20, Reflex 18, Will 18
Speed 5
Immune Disease, poison; Resist 10 necrotic
Cloud of Flies ♦ Aura 1
Effect: each living creature in the aura incurs a -2 penalty to attack rolls. Nurglite creatures are unaffected.
Standard Actions
(M) Plaguesword ♦ At-will, necrotic
Attack: +10 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 6 damage and ongoing 2 necrotic damage.
RB Plague Wind (disease, necrotic) ♦ Recharge 6
Attack: Area burst 2 within 10; +10 vs. Fortitude
Hit: enemies within the burst suffer 2d8+5 necrotic damage and ongoing 5 necrotic damage (save ends). For each target that suffers damage from the initial attack, a Nurgling manifests within the target area. Secondary attack: +10 vs. Fortitude; the target contracts Nurgle's Rot.
Minor Actions
CB Stream of Corruption ♦ Recharge 4, necrotic, poison
Attack: close blast 1; +10 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 1d6+4 poison and necrotic damage, and the target is weakened until the end of its next turn.
Triggered Actions
Horde Arcana ♦ At-will
Trigger: an ally within 4 squares uses plague wind.
Effect (Immediate Reaction): expend a charged plague wind to grant +1 to the ally's attack rolls and increase the damage inflicted by 1d8. Using this ability does not count as an attack or provoke attacks of opportunity.
Skills Arcana +11, Athletics +10
Str 16 (+6) Dex 9 (+2) Wis 17 (+6)
Con 20 (+8) Int 17 (+6) Cha 11 (+3)
Alignment Chaotic evilLanguages Abyssal

Nurgling Level 1 Minion Skirmisher
Tiny immortal humanoid (demon, chaotic) XP 25
Initiative +4 Senses Perception +2; darkvision
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 16; Fortitude 14, Reflex 11, Will 12
Speed 5
Immune disease, poison; Resist 5 necrotic
Standard Actions
(M) Bite ♦ At-will
Attack: +4 vs. AC
Hit: 4 damage
M Mischief ♦ At-will
Attack: +4 vs. Reflex
Hit: slide the target 1 square
Skills Stealth +3
Str 11 (+0) Dex 16 (+3) Wis 12 (+1)
Con 16 (+3) Int 13 (+1) Cha 11 (+0)
Alignment Chaotic evilLanguages Abyssal

Nurgle's Rot: treat as Mummy Rot, level 8, with errata'd DCs of Endurance improve DC 15 + two-thirds mummy’s level (19+), maintain DC 10 + two-thirds mummy’s level (14+), worsen DC 9 + two-third’s mummy’s level or lower.

Because necrotic damage exists in 4E, it seemed like the most appropriate way to model Nurglite resistance to pain and decay.

To my surprise, I struggled a bit to find suitable ways to handle the attacks. Slowing, ongoing necrotic damage, disease and weakening all seemed like pretty good options; I didn't like to make anything too complicated, because they are just level 7 monsters, after all. I was very tempted to have plague wind cause weakening, but the image of creatures slowly rotting away after the cloud of filth sweeps over them was too cool. I just didn't feel like I could do damage + ongoing + weakening + disease, you know? The inclusion of Nurgle's Rot seemed really necessary to me, but it does cap the number of other effects I could include.

The plague wind power is a bit tricky to balance, and I'm hoping it's okay - it's less damaging than many equivalents, and based off the underpowered damage charts in the DMG1 (because it's really freakin' hard to find the updated figures anywhere) but the ongoing damage and the disease kicker should make up for that.

So anyway, hope that was fun for someone. I might do more in future, but we'll have to see.


  1. Thankyou! Im using this in my 3.5 campaign!

    1. Awesome! I hope it works out for you. Let me know what happens, I'm really interested to see how these play out in practice, and I'd love any feedback you have. Still haven't found a chance to mash Warhammer into my own D&Ding but I'm working on it...

    2. Awesome going to throw a small nurglite army at a group of 12the level characters these write ups will save me mucho time thankee

    3. That's brilliant! Let me know how it goes, yeah?