40K Retro: Gifts of Mortarion

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On the Plague Planet Mortarion, Chaos Champions pay homage to Nurgle, to Mortarion, and to the ruinous powers.

It’s time to step backwards in time (and space) to the hallowed halls of Chaos throughout the ages. There, enshrined atop a pillar of awesome, gilded with the wails of the 80s, being ground inexorably into the 90s–during that same heady year when the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, and the Cold War entered its penultimate year–that’s where we find the Realms of Chaos the Lost and the Damned. And there we find Mortarion in all his glory proffering gifts to the Champions of Chaos who paid homage to Nurgle.

Let’s take a look at how Chaos “rewarded” its champions back then–though in so doing we’ve got to clear something up. I was wrong in an earlier article, there are plenty of diseases of Nurgle, though I still maintain that we do need more. Alright now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at Papa Nurgle’s gifts:

There he is. That’s taken from the Realms of Chaos book in all its 90s glory.

Now in those days, it came to pass that there were Chaos Renegades. These represented one of the most serious threats to the Imperium. Consisting of ferocious raiders and their Champions, mutated by ruinous powers and warped by the blessings of Daemon Princes, the Renegades originated from within the Eye of Terror. From this weeping wound in the warp they’d maraud outward, usually in Warbands, because that’s what the book was there to promote.

And fittingly enough, the Chaos Renegades of Nurgle are just the Death Guard. Here we get a little sampling of their history’

In the third year of the Horus Heresy, the rebel Death Guard Chapter was marooned in the warp while attempting a long-range jump to Earth. Months passed while the fleet’s Navigators searched for a warp-tide that would bring them back to the material universe. Meanwhile a mysterious contagion begun to spread from ship to ship. The stinking pestilence bloated the gut, distended the flesh, and turned its victims rotten from the inside. Eventually the Chapter’s Primarch Mortation became infected and in his delirium he called upon the Powers of Chaos to aid the Space Marines.

And the rest, as they say is history. So was that bit–at any rate, Mortarion settles in to a planet nestled within the Eye of Terror and first becomes Nurgle’s Champion and then eventually ascends to become the Daemon Prince Mortarion, Lord of the Plague Planet. And it is on this Plague Planet that the Chaos Champions may receive one of Mortarion’s dark gifts.

The Dark Contagion – The Champion’s whole body swells and turns blotchy purple and black. His skin splits and a pool of thick evil-smelling pus spills out. If the Champion recevies one or more wounds from a hand-to-hand combat blow the pus will burst out and splatter his opponent on the D6 roll of a 5 or 6. If hit by this foul stuff a model must roll equal to or less than his WP on 2D6 to avoid being overcome with nausea and vomiting. A model overcome in this way loses any remaining attacks it has in this combat round and cannot attack at all in the following combat round. Worst of all, any model hit by the revolting pus must test after the battle and may catch the Dark Contagion. This is particularly important in the case of an enemy Champion. On the D6 roll of a 6 the model catches the Dark Contagion and, being unprotected by Nurgle, will automatically die after fighting in a further D6 games. Should the individual be a Champion then he can still reach daemonhood so long as he does so within the allotted time. Meanwhile the model can spread the Dark Contagion to his opponents in the same way. Note that a follower of Nurgle or a Daemon Prince of Nurgle may contract the Dark Contagion but cannot die of it.

Yellow Dementia – The Champion succumbs to the peculiar malady of Yellow Dementia. His skin turns bright yellow and his eyes swell up like poached eggs. The Champion’s facial muscles contort into a manic grin displaying his snarling teeth. The victim of Yellow Dementia cannot resist hand-to-hand combat, and as soon as enemy move close by he breaks into a whooping war cackle and dashes towards them. If any enemy is within charge range of the Champion he will charge as soon as he can. If the enemy run away then he is not adversely affected, but will continue to charge in his following turn, until he enters hand-to-hand combat. Once engaged in and-to-hand combat the demented character fights with the infamous ferocity of the hardened lunatic, doubling his weapon skill and strength up to a maximum value of 10.

Gigantic Boil – A gigantic boil grows right in the middle of the Champion’s forehead. It swells until it is the size and colour of a shiny ripe melon. The boil may burst during any hand-to-hand combat round. Test at the beginning of the round before any blows are struck. On the D6 roll of a 6 the boil bursts and showers a chosen opponent with rank pus – knocking him to the ground on a 2D6 roll equal to his strength or less. An opponent knocked to the ground is glued to the floor by all the pussy mess and can neither attack nor move until the hand-to-hand combat engagement is over. Once the gigantic boil has burst it has no further effect in that game but a new boil will grow before the next game.

Spouts Blood – The Champion’s ears, eyes, mouth and nose all drip with blood making him look especially horrific. This has no effect other than to enhance his appearance.

Sleeping Sickness – The Champion is susceptible to a curious sleeping malady in which he falls into a deep sleep at inconvenient and unpreditable moments. If there are no enemy within 12″ at the start of his turn the Champion may slip into sickly sleep on the D6 roll of a 6. He will sleep until he rolls a 4, 5 or 6 at the start of a following turn. While asleep he can do nothing but can be carried by any model with a strength equal to or more than his own – the carrying model may do nothing else.

Feels no Pain – A degenerative disease of the nervous system means that the Champion loses the ability to feel pain. Even if he chops off a finger he feels nothing. As a result he can ignore all but the most severe wounds, and can fight on despite the most terrible injuries. To represent this the model receives an additional D6 wounds at the start of the game and the number of extra wounds is noted. Once the game is over any serious damage sustained will ultimately catch up with him, as even wounds which cannot be felt may still kill. After the game is over the number of extra wounds are removed. If the Champion has no wounds after the extra wounds have been taken away he collapses after the battle and is considered as a casualty. He must roll for casualty recovery like any other model removed from the table during the battle.

The Rune of Mortarion – The Champion’s skin erupts with disfiguring pustules. When they heal they leave a puckered scar in the shape of Mortarion’s triple skull Rune.

Twisted Gut – The Champion’s intestines burst through his skin and writhe about like a huge long tentacle. The Champion can retract or extend his gut as he pleases. If damaged the gut regrows inside his body, so he can’t be permanently damaged if an enemy slices through his intestines. The gut can be used to make an additional attack in hand-to-hand combat.

Gastric Gripe – The Champion’s insides swell with gas and gastric juices until his whole abdomen is distorted like a balloon. Every so often the gas finds a vent through some natural orifice or by means of a tear in his body, and a cloud of noxious fumes surrounds him. The release of gas is accompanied by a distinctive ripping or slow burbling noise which the Champion’s followers take as a cue for them to cheer enthusiastically. The exertions of hand-to-hand combat aggravate the condition and cause great clouds of noxious gas to surround the Champion. In the second or subsequent round of any hand-to-hand combat engagement the Champion is obscured by sickening fumes causing any enemy who strikes against him to suffer a -1 to hit modifier.

Peeling Skin – The Champion’s skin peels off him as he moves, leaving great bare patches of flesh of his body. Apart from enhancing his appearance and making the immediate area untidy this has no further effect.

Bloat – The Champion swells up like a great round ball and his skin gradually turns green and pustulent. The Champion’s extra bulk adds a further +1 to his toughness but reduces his initiative by -1.

Chaos Attribute – Mortarion is as fickle with his favours as any other Power of Chaos. He decides against awarding the Champion with a gift and gives him a randomly determined Chaos Attribute instead.

Well there you have out folks, the gifts of Mortarion, which range in usefulness from no actual game effect, to extra rules that would go on to become an iconic part of many a Death Guard player’s army.

Makes me never want to go to a gift exchange where Mortarion is involved.

  • Drpx

    I miss the old book styles with art and RP stuff. The new ones feel like catalogs.

    • luke-vdv

      It’s less dynamic and yet has so much more character than the clean new stuff.

  • Golden Yak

    Nurgle is the most fun of the Chaos Gods.

    • Ryan Freivalds

      Slaanesh would like to have a word with you.
      Though definitions of “FUN” may vary.