|Battle Cry||None; the Death Guard fights in total silence|
|Original Name||Dusk Raiders|
|Current Homeworld||Plague Planet|
|Strength||95,000 during the Great Crusade, is said to have "swollen" since the Horus Heresy. Both figuratively and literally.|
|Specialty||Attrition, close-range firefights, mass infantry, bio-warfare, and zombie-swoleness.|
|Colours||Formerly unpainted grey with deep crimson right gauntlet, vambrace, and pauldron; now green and brown, inevitably the most disgusting and nasty-looking shades of each.|
"Not a bad chap when you get to know him (and sooner or later, everyone gets to know him)."
- – Terry Pratchett on Death (the character within the Discworld Novel Universe)
"We are death...[wheeze]...and decay...[rasping]"
- – Some Plague Marine
"Sometimes, when I'm alone, I like to cover myself in Vaseline and pretend I'm a slug."
- – Anonymous
The Death Guard are one of the nine Space Marine Legions who betrayed the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, and became Chaos Space Marines. They worship the Chaos God Nurgle and in return he infests their armor with pestilence and disease. The Primarch of the Death Guard is Mortarion, who has been elevated to Daemon Prince status. Their original homeworld of Barbarus was a septic tank disguised as a planet, entirely populated by country bumpkins (and a few Dark Eldar) and stank continuously of horseshit. Barbarus has since been destroyed (probably for the best). The new homeworld of the Death Guard is now the lazily named Plague Planet (
it fucking rhymes too! Actually it's an alliteration, Ackchyually it's a consonance, which is still awful) where all the Galaxy's diseases from meningitis to crotch rot collect.
Not many neckbeards dare to paint them up. Back during the Unification Wars of Terra, before the coming of Mortarion, they were known as the Dusk Raiders due to their early-evening assaults, using the confusion of the afternoon twilight to catch their enemies off-guard, during dinner. Because Mortarion had been endowed by the Emperor with the aspect of humanity's Teenage Edginess, he renamed his legion the Death Guard instead, and
had them repaint their armor to the charming colors of algae-green and mudslick brown white their armor was unpainted, save for a snot green trim and the legions heraldry. They got dirty after they started swimming in the drops.
Due to living in the utter shithole (in their case, quite literally) that was Barbarus, where the local air was equivalent to huffing the engine exhaust from a Chinese cab, the Death Guard soon grew proud of their 'ridiculously tough beyond humanly possible' bodies, which made them resistant to almost all forms of poisons and diseases (didn't stop them from succumbing to Nurgle's Gift, hur hur!). Due to their affinity to biological and chemical elements (likely programed into their Geneseed as well), the Death Guard quickly became the Emperor's personal bio-chem experts. It wouldn't be a surprise if their main source of orbital bombardment was Virus Bombs. In fact, they probably bathe in that shit on a daily basis. They also smoked A LOT of weed.
Before the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard differed from the other 17 known Legions in that they had only seven Great Companies, although these held far more men than those of other Legions such as the Ultramarines or Space Wolves. There were three privileged titles held by captains of the Death Guard. The captain of the First Company was known as the First Captain, the captain of the Second Company was known as Commander, and the captain of the Seventh Company was known as Battle-Captain.
The Death Guard tended to be organized into units of foot-slogging infantry, rather than mechanized squads (since the Death Guard themselves were already tough to the point they might as well have Hull Points). Mortarion ensured that his men were well-equipped and highly-trained. He also ensured that they could fight in almost any kind of atmosphere, and placed little emphasis on specialized units using jump packs or bikes. The Death Guard did not have dedicated Assault and Tactical Squads. Every Marine was equipped with a bolter, bolt pistol and close combat weapon and told to fight with whatever weapon circumstance dictated. The Legion was also well known for its use of Terminator Armour. Possibly as a result of this, the Death Guard were highly successful at high-risk boarding and close-quarter operations such as space hulk clearance.
By the time of the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard was known to have had roughly 95,000 Space Marines. One of the most isolated Legions, they tended to take on the most inhospitable warzones of all. They developed a rivalry of sorts with the Iron Hands, priding themselves on their innate resistance whereas the Iron Tenth got theirs from intensive augmentation. Having found their Primarch relatively late, tensions persisted between the Barbaran "true" Death Guard and the old marines who remembered the Dusk Raider days. Barbarus brought other baggage, including a fanatical hatred of psykers which would lead to Mortarion calling for an end to the Space Marine Librarius.
During the Galaxy's Greatest Hangover since the Fall of the Eldar, the Death Guard and Mortarion were one of the first traitor legions to rebel against daddy. Within the Heresy, Mortarion's smaller fleet led a failed attempt on Prospero to convince Jaghatai Khan and the White Scars to join with them, only for
Genghis Jaghatai to tell the psychic-hating bigot to fuck off and thus, the White Scars and Death Guard battled to a stalemate. Some fight scenes later, Mortarion meets up with Typhus (then Callas Typhon), who pulled a dick move and killed off the navigators, but convinced Mortarion that he could lead them to Terra. As you might expect, entering the Warp without a Navigator's help is just asking for something bad to happen. Then came the Destroyer Plague, and their fate was sealed. Their superhuman constitution and grim determination proved worthless against the Destroyer, and so they embraced Papa Nurgle to be freed from the plague and relieved of their suffering, at the cost of, well.....
Mortarion also had a personal guard, the speechless and silent Death Shroud, who were known to be within 49 (Get it? Nurgle's holy number is seven and 49 is seven squared?) paces of their Primarch, Morty. Oh, and they enjoyed drinking a cup of venomous, poison bile to commemorate victory. Mortarion drinks that stuff like water, though his captains have trouble holding their guts inside after drinking.
Once the Heresy was properly underway Mortarion rose quickly in Horus' esteem by not going bugfuck insane and/or turning (his brothers) into a daemon. A few years into the war, Horus charged him to wipe out the White Scars. Mortarion duly pursued them to the Catallus Rift, only to be thwarted by a Webway portal he had no reason to expect and a heroic last stand by the Scars' Sagyar Marzan kill-squads.
All in all, the Death Guard were stoic, poison-drinking, sour-faced martial warriors before Horus threw his surprise birthday bash, and ended up rotting avatars of
AIDS, Syphilis, and decay by the time the party was finished. Just like that ONE GUY who always shows up.
So the Death Guard and the rest of the Traitor legions failed (what were they even trying to do again?) and were kicked to the Eye of Terror to do their daemonic stuff in private. The Death Guard, along with any non-Word Bearers or Black Legion factions, soon broke apart into splintering warbands. The split of the Death Guard can be contributed to Mortarion doing what's trendy when you become a Daemon-Primarch: do whatever the fuck you want and have nothing to do with your Legion FOR 10,000 YEARS. Typhus, who was always a dubious shit-nugget to his Primarch, decided to take as much of the legion into his own hands and go crazy with no intention of obeying Mortarion when he returns. What a douche. Though he did get some shit done.
Another Death Guard warleader by the name of Thagus Daravek got similar ideas, but on a bigger scale. Through sorcery he realized the destiny that Abaddon was on course for, and tried to claim it for himself. Rounding up massive warbands, he became the Lord of Hosts, doing everything he could to wipe out nascent Black Legion. He even went so far as to bind the daemon that had been Iskandar Khayon's tutelary to him, giving him power over Khayon, and used this to follow the Black Legion into realspace. With Abaddon already mired in battle with the Black Templars he would have wiped them out, cleaned up the remaining Templars and sailed off into history. Only Khayon ordered the Black Legion fleet to do a runner, engaged Daravek aboard the 'Vengeful Spirit, and chopped his head off. Good effort, at least.
In theory the Death Guard, like the Word Bearers, are one of the few Traitor Legions that still have some sort of cohesive centralized command structure. Mortarion commands seven Plague Companies, each consisting of multiple Sepsis Cohorts, which are divided into two Maladictums which in turn consist of seven Colonies. In practice, Mortarion rarely commands his minions (especially Typhus), and the forces of the Death Guard are so scattered that they are mainly divided into informal warbands called Vectoriums, mostly consisting of Colonies or Maladictums from the same Plague Company.
As of the 42nd Millennium, Mortarion decided to stop playing X-Box and puffin' his "Barbaran gas" to make up with his old homie Big Blue. Suffice to say, the Death Guard saw what Magnus and friends did with Sortiarius and decide to do something similar. They carved out their own mini-empire called the Scourge Stars right to the north of Ultramar, so they can annoy and pester Big Blue Wonder for as much as Morty pleases. This act has cemented the Death Guard as Ultramar's worst neighbor since the first Tyrannic War. Thus Mortarion and the Death Guard launched the Plague Wars after Grandpa Smurf's resurrection and the breakout of the Indomitus Crusade.
During the Fate of Konor, Mortarion and his bros decided to launch an assault on the star system. Whilst he had lost three of the planets (unsurprising since Imperial players outnumbered Chaos players to an obscene level), through sheer grit and resistance, the Death Guard managed to take over the planet of Vanitor. Although even then, it was a pyrrhic victory at best since the Death Guard had to lob a lot of resources to finally turn the tide of the battle. They did manage to also take another planet called Drenthal, but they ultimately they lost the final, decisive battle to the Ultramarines. This was due to Mortarion putting all of their hopes and resources in a former Eldar maiden-world turned into the Death Guard's very own gross-ass Death Star, strapping continent-sized Space Hulks to it and dumping whatever forces he had left in the system onto its surface. Much like the alluded super-space station, it got blown into smithereens during the loyalist assault when strike teams penetrated deep into its engine core and manually detonated a cyclonic torpedo. After a few more battles things finally came to a head on Iax, where Guilliman and Mortarion duked it out amidst the ruins of the planet before Nurgle recalled Morty back to the Scourge Stars. Apparently the other Chaos Gods had gotten jealous and wanted to take the Plague God's recently acquired real estate for themselves. And so, amidst what is assumed to be the expletive-ridden ranting by Mortarion at the gods fucking him over again, the snide commentary of Typhus at yet another failure of his father and the hearty laughter of Ku'gath at the irony of it all, the Death Guard left Ultramar.
After the fiasco of the Plague Wars, the Death Guard was forced to go back to their little turf to fend off Tzeentchian and Khornate shenanigans over the Scourge Stars. At the same time, Mortarion and his Death Guard also manage to meet face to face with the remnants of the Tau's Fourth Sphere forces. That turned out to be a pretty great party crash.
The Death Guard codex indicates that of all the Traitor Legions, they are one of the most ordered and coherent. Maintaining a sensible command structure and chain of command all the way from the top to the bottom similar to how it used to be structured all the way back during the Great Crusade:
At the top stands Mortarion himself, attended by the various officers of the legion and his Deathshroud.
Below him there are seven Plague Companies commanded by a powerful Lord or Daemon Prince. Each company tends to have a preferred combat style as well as carrying a particular disease.
- 1st Company - Harbingers: commanded by Typhus, and includes the Plague Fleet. They carry hundreds of strains of Zombie Plague.
- 2nd Company: Has a huge number of battle tanks and obviously prefers mechanised assault. They carry the "Ferric Blight" which infects armour and vehicles with crawling rust.
- 3rd Company - Mortarion's Anvil: Defensive siege specialists. Its warriors carry the "Gloaming Bloat" which infects them with sweaty fever that makes them speak in gurgles.
- 4th Company: Commanded by a sentient plague made up of a gestalt daemonic consciousness called the "Eater of Lives." The 4th insists on having Sorcerers in command roles and incorporates daemonic summoning into its tactics. Its warriors carry the "Eater Plague", which is most likely a manifestation of the Eater of Lives.
- 5th Company - Poxmongers: Use a lot of daemon engines. They carry the "Sangous Flux" which makes them leave blood clots and red trails wherever they go.
- 6th Company - Ferrymen / Brethren of the Fly: command the Plague Fleets and acquire new ships for the Legion. They also have a large number of Blightlord Terminators who carry a parasite called "the Droning".
- 7th Company - Mortarion's Chosen Sons: They are the legion's alchemists and are blessed with "Crawling Pustulance".
The Plague Companies are made up of an unnumbered amount of Sepsis Cohorts which contain about 700 Plague Marines each. They probably function similar to loyalist Chapters in that they are a fully self contained fighting force, equipped with its own attendant officers, auxiliaries, vehicles and daemon engines. Each sepsis cohort also has command of its own fleet assets so it can move from place to place.
Each Sepsis Cohort is split into two Maladictums probably of around 350 warriors each, plus any assets that get assigned to it.
The Maladictums are sub-divided into seven Colonies which is similar in function to a loyalist Company. Each colony containing seven squads of variable strength, (350 into seven colonies leaves 50 men divided into seven squads of around seven men each) and can be equipped in whatever manner their commander deems appropriate. Although typically the 1st Colony of each maladictum will be exclusively made up of Blightlord Terminators.
Though what this means in practice is debatable however, the Legion is broken up across the whole galaxy with maladictums and colonies from various plague companies fighting together in forces called Vectoriums whose uniform often manifests itself to a single identifiable scheme and take on a new name for themselves chosen by their leader, so identifying which Plague Company that an individual warrior or squad has come from based solely on his colour scheme would be a nightmare, it would be simpler to just identify him by what diseases he carries.
The organisation of the Legion probably gets further complicated by the fact that some vectoriums, such as the Favoured Sons and the Rotworm Brotherhood have gone double-renegade and actively rebelled against their Primarch, forming independent warbands of their own.
The Death Guard are said to be one of the few Traitor Legions to have actually grown since the Horus Heresy; and have fought entire wars over new Gene-Seed stocks or for control over recruits. Coupled with the sheer resilience of Plague Marines in general means that in comparison to before their corruption to Chaos their numbers have only increased more quickly since their damnation. In terms of actual numbers though, it can only be a matter of speculation. It is known that at the start of the Horus Heresy they had 95,000 warriors. Even though is reasonable to assume that number would have been heavily diminished by the conclusion of the Siege of Terra and the Scourging that followed; the implication is that the Death Guard are stronger than they have ever been, thus it can be comfortably guessed that the number has grown to equal or even exceed their former strength, which probably means that each Plague Company has more than nineteen Sepsis Cohorts of 700 warriors each.
(Though they are still far behind the Black Legion in total numbers as well as number of ships)
Daily Rituals of the Death Guard
06:00 - The Death Guard awake in the hand-dug graves. Massive, 10,000 year hangovers and rotting ligaments make getting out of bed difficult, some are unable to be roused from their graves for hours and have to be dug/scraped out to perform their daily rituals.
08:00 - Morning Meal. A zombified serf prepares the meat of another rotting serf, alongside a bit of fungus. Marines who are unable to rise from their graves make due by eating the fungi that grow on their bodies, or sometimes their own limbs by mistake.
08:30 - Morning Prayers. A prayer is dedicated to Papa Nurgle. Each Death Guard secretly wishes a Nurgmas present from Nurgle himself. They all get presents, as every day is Nurgmas as long as you asked for more mutations or nurglings.
09:30 - Morning Firing Rites. The Death Guard proceed to have target practice upon captured Imperial citizens. Its a win-win situation as the citizens are revived as zombies and the Death Guard gets experience. Nobody loses, everyone wins. Such is life. Well that is unless said Death Guard is a horrible shot (and when your joints and eyes are rotting, steady aim isn't an easy proposition), in which case the citizen's terror and pain is prolonged.
11:00 - Battle Practice. The Death Guard engage in battle practice within the mud swamps of the Plague Planet. Unfortunately, the Pleasure Pits of Pussy Planet were booked for the day. The stuck Death Guard are now able to climb out.
12:00 - Tactical Indoctrination. The Death Guard plan out their latest campaign to spread Papa Nurgle's Gifts. Unlike traditional legions; the planning phase looks and sounds more like preparations for a party, rather than a tactical debriefing.
13:00 - Evening Meal. A medium meal of Maggots, Dying flesh, and diseased organs is prepared by the zombified serfs. Most Death Guard prefer to order from Chaos Burgers and McNurgle's as the food delivery is faster, and the quality is pretty much the same.
14:00 - Plague Checks. The Plague Surgeons now examine the Death Guard legion to see if any new diseases develop within their bodies. Typically nothing new happens, but they're always optimistic.
15:00 - Pet Training. The Death Guard now begin combat training with their daemonic beasts. Its mostly harmless (at least for the marines), but will occasionally end up with a friendly "fatality" when said beast gets too enthusiastic.
16:00 - Evening Prayers.
This time Papa Nurgle has heeded the wishes of the Death Guard and has given them Nurgmas presents NO PRESENTS! THEY GOT THEIR PRESENTS ONCE, NOW IT'S SOMEONE ELSE'S TURN!
17:00 - Pet a Nurgling Period. The Death Guard are allowed to pet some of Papa Nurgle's blobs of rotting cutsies. If they were gifted a nurgling then they can pet their own nurgling, who will then follow the marine around until they inevitably get stepped on.
18:00 - Daily Nurgle Wedding. A local wedding is held by two love birds in the Plague Planet. Celebrations are held as the Death Guard congratulate the groom and bride. Much confusion is had as to which is the groom and which is the bride. The Death Guard attempt to coax Mortarion into leading the procession, but typically gets silence in response. The Deathshroud are also visibly tense by this hour.
19:00 - Wedding Meal. A feast is held to congratulate the newly wed couple. Everyone is happy and the imperial citizens who were shot for target practice are now revived as zombies and are invited to see that not all things in Chaos are bad.
22:00 - Time with Daddy. Mortarion gathers whatever faithful Death Guardians he's commanding at the time and tells tales of the Heresy and how to serve Nurgle best. All the marines sit cross legged in a circle listening while petting any surviving nurglings.
23:00 - Free Time. The Death Guard have their free time where they pray to Nurgle, get as much disease as possible, help the locals, and be overall model citizens to those who inhabit the Plague Planet. Sometimes, the Death Guard congregate, and an ancient Terran plant species known as "The Weed" is ritually inhaled through an equally ancient tool known as "the Bong" in faint imitation of their Primarch's need for Barbaran gas. It has strange, pleasant effects, and Sometimes, Mortarion may share his "Barbaran gas" with his sons. It's good stuff.
24:00 - Rest Time. The Death Guard go back to their graves and rest for a bit. Mortarion ponders where to spread Nurgle's gifts next. On rare occasions; Mortarion may leave his quarters during rest period. Reports of him playing with his own menagerie of pet daemonic beasts in the middle of the night are unsubstantiated and will result in horrible dismemberment if he ever hears you mention it.
New models and Codex inbound
If you really want to make an impressive Death Guard army, don't forget who you're painting. These guys SMELL. Forget the conventional painting guides, those look like Black Legion in green armor. You're going to want to first apply an undercoat of literal shit, snot, piss, and neckbeard wearing spandex level sweat. Follow up with coating the armor with actual spit (smoker's tar filled loogie preferred), earwax, pus (cheap hooker...?) and vomit (any source, preferably with bile). Next, trim the armor by smearing the model in the bloody, bloated necrotic flesh of some local roadkill laying in a pool of gasoline. Using dirty syringes, apply even coats of AIDS, anthrax, cholera, cancerous cells, necrotizing fasciitis, ebola, influenza, prions, plague, smallpox, herpes, salmonella, tetanus, and poliovirus. Lastly, mix the model in a bin of rotting irradiated garbage and grease, making sure to keep what sticks to it for accents. Voilà! Death Guard.
Death Guard Plague Marines, moar like AIDStartes, amirite? (Ha-Ha!)
|Forces of the Death Guard|
|Leaders:|| Chaos Lord - Daemon Prince - Sorcerer - Chaos Champion |
Malignant Plaguecaster - Plague Surgeon - Tallymen
|Troops:|| Biologus Putrifier - Blightlord Terminator - Chaos Spawn - Deathshroud |
Foul Blightspawn - Noxious Blightbringer - Plague Marines - Possessed
|Vehicles:||Chaos Land Raider - Helbrute - Plaguereaper - Predator - Rhino|
|Flyers:||Storm Eagle - Stormbird - Thunderhawk|
| Blight Drone - Defiler - Foetid Bloat-Drone |
Myphitic Blight-Hauler - Plague Hulk - Plagueburst Crawler
|Daemons:||Beast of Nurgle - Nurgling - Plaguebearer|
|Auxiliaries:||Cultists - Pestigors - Plague Zombie - Poxwalkers|
|Allies:||Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines|
|The Traitor Legions of Chaos|
|Chaos Legions:|| Alpha Legion - Black Legion - Death Guard - Emperor's Children|
Iron Warriors - Night Lords - Thousand Sons - Word Bearers - World Eaters
|Warbands:|| Apostles of Contagion - Bloodborn - Blood Gorgons - Broken Aquila |
Crimson Slaughter - Foresworn - Plague Fleet - Prodigal Sons - Red Corsairs
Sons of Malice - The Consortium - The Flawless Host - The Purge - The Scourged
Skyrar's Dark Wolves - Warband of Subsector Aurelia - Steel Cobras