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Warhammer 40k Lore – The Death Guard: The Plague Marines Of Nurgle


Once a proud and loyal Space Marine legion, the Death Guard have undergone a grotesque transformation, becoming the embodiment of pestilence and decay.

Origins and Loyalty

The Death Guard began their existence as the XIV Legion of Space Marines, known for their unwavering resilience and unyielding determination on the battlefield. Their Primarch, Mortarion, was a grim and stoic figure who grew up on the toxic Death World of Barbarus. Mortarion led the Death Guard with an emphasis on discipline, endurance, and the unflinching pursuit of victory.

During the Great Crusade, the galaxy-spanning campaign led by the Emperor of Mankind to unite humanity, the Death Guard were renowned for their ability to endure extreme hardship and chemical warfare. They were known for their gruelling campaigns against recalcitrant alien species and rebellion in toxic environments.

The Corruption of Nurgle

The turning point in the Death Guard’s history came during the Horus Heresy, a galaxy-shaking civil war that divided the Imperium. Mortarion and his Legion fell to the influence of Nurgle, the Chaos God of pestilence and decay, who promised them relief from their suffering and deliverance from the oppressive yoke of the Emperor.

In their fall to Nurgle’s service, the Death Guard underwent a grotesque transformation. Their bodies were warped by the Lord of Decay, and they became inured to the most horrific diseases and poisons. Nurgle’s “gifts” of decay and resilience allowed them to endure the foulest of environments and plagues. The Death Guard’s once-pure white and green color scheme turned to a sickly, diseased pallor of putrid green and decay.

The Scourge Stars

Following their fall to Nurgle, the Death Guard adopted the name “Scourge Stars” for their fleet, which is made up of ships transformed into festering plague carriers and inhabited by legions of diseased and pestilent followers. These ships are mobile strongholds, and they serve as breeding grounds for new diseases that the Death Guard can unleash upon their enemies.

Grandfather Nurgle’s Favour

The Death Guard revere Nurgle as their “Grandfather” and protector. They view the embrace of pestilence, suffering, and death as a form of salvation. Nurgle’s “blessings” are manifested in the form of hideous mutations, plagues, and a daemonic resilience that makes the Death Guard nearly immune to conventional weapons and diseases. Nurgle’s favour also grants them the power to spread disease and decay, which they use to infect worlds and sow chaos.

Mortarion’s Role

Mortarion, once a staunchly independent and stoic Primarch, now serves as a formidable champion of Nurgle. He resides within the Warp-infested daemon world known as the Plague Planet, serving as Nurgle’s eternal herald. Mortarion’s loyalty to his adoptive father and the chaos gods is unyielding, and he leads the Death Guard in their unending campaign of pestilence and corruption.

Rituals and Plague Companies

The Death Guard have a complex and ritualistic hierarchy, organised into Plague Companies, each dedicated to a particular aspect of pestilence and decay. Each Plague Company is led by a powerful Chaos Lord, who has his own unique aspect of Nurgle’s favour.

The Plague Marines, the core warriors of the Death Guard, are clad in putrid, disease-ridden power armour that fuses with their bodies. Their weaponry includes noxious bolters, plague spewers, and blight launchers that spread disease and corruption with every shot.

Nurglings and Daemons

The Death Guard is often accompanied by Nurglings, small and mischievous daemonic creatures that embody Nurgle’s penchant for play and laughter amidst the suffering. These creatures often accompany the Death Guard in battle, serving as both distractions and carriers of further contagion.

Larger daemons, known as Plaguebearers, serve Nurgle and the Death Guard as foot soldiers, assisting in spreading disease and guarding key locations. These daemons embody the suffering and despair brought about by pestilence.

Fortresses of Decay

The Death Guard have established vast and decaying fortresses on various worlds and within the warp. These strongholds, such as the Terminus Est and the plague-ridden Garden of Nurgle, are festering and pestilential, serving as centers of worship and breeding grounds for new diseases and plagues.

Plague Planets

The Death Guard, in their role as instruments of Nurgle’s will, are known to transform planets into Plague Planets. These worlds are inundated with contagion, and life on their surfaces is utterly transformed into grotesque and twisted forms, often wracked by ceaseless suffering.

In-Game Representation

In the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame, the Death Guard are a faction of Chaos Space Marines. Players can field armies composed of Plague Marines, daemon engines, and pestilence-wielding psykers. The Death Guard are characterised by their resilience, diseases, and ability to corrupt the battlefield, weakening their enemies over time.


The Death Guard are a gruesome and pestilential force in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, embodying the relentless power of Nurgle, the Lord of Decay. Their history is one of tragic descent into a nightmarish realm of disease and corruption, with their loyalty to Grandfather Nurgle marked by their transformation into plague-ridden, indomitable warriors. The Death Guard serve as agents of decay and pestilence, spreading their vile contagions across the stars.

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