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Nurgle's Rotters

The Blood Bowl game is set in what ostensibly appears to be the Warhammer Old World, but with some changes to better fit the exuberant fun of this brutal sport. One of the teams that competes is Nurgle's Rotters, a group of followers of the Plague God, infected with contagious diseases that they spread to their opponents.

Citadel Journal 18 (1996)

Citadel Journal 18 (1996), p57-60 — Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels: The Return of Nurgle's Rotters

Nurgle's Rot in Blood Bowl

Nurgle's Rotters were a Chaos team made famous by the fact that all of its players were afflicted by a horrible and extremely infectious disease known as Nurgle's Rot. The team won many games by default as it was not uncommon for opponents to simply refuse to take the field against them. Those teams desperate enough to do so were invariably changed by the experience. The Rot affects its victims slowly, deteriorating both body and spirit. As a result afflicted players either kill themselves, go mad or else sign up with the only team loathsome enough to have them: the Rotters themselves.

Unfortunately (well, unfortunate for the Rotters anyway) the team did not survive the collapse of the NAF in '88. Without a regular supply of victims to recruit they, quite literally, went to pieces.

Spike! Magazine Exclusive: The Rotters are back!

You can't keep a good plague down it seems. It's almost ten years since the last appearance of Blood Bowl's most putrid team. But Spike! can reveal that speculation about a revival (if that is an appropriate word) of the Nurgle's Rotters is confirmed. Three members of the Middenheim Marauders hospitalised after their charity game against mysterious newcomers D.K Erengrad are reported to be in a state of advanced and irreperable decomposition tonight. Kislev General Infirmary, where the injured players are being treated, has declined to comment but it has closed its doors to the public, indefinitely. Chaos fans everywhere will be delighted.

New Rules: Catching the Rot

Nurgle's Rot is passed on by physical contact. Victims can catch it by being in combat with disciples of Nurgle, being caught in a Stream of Corruption or by becoming a Champion of Nurgle. The Rot usually takes several months to kill its victims; it progresses from match to match, starting with the first match following contraction of the disease. The victim is grotesquely altered as he slowly turns into a Plaguebearer, then his appearance and profile continue to change until he is finally assimilated into the Realm of Chaos as a pool of protoplasm. A Champion of Nurgle who contracts the Rot becomes a carrier of the disease but does not suffer any debilitating side-effects. However he can pass it on to members of his own team. If he is slain then the status of Champion will be conferred upon another team member. If the new champion already has the Rot, its progress is halted at the stage it has reached.

A new Chaos team wishing to devote itself to Nurgle must declare one of its players as a Champion. The Champion has the skill Foul Appearance, as described in the DeathZone supplement. This skill is a measure of the progress of the Rot; consequently the remainder of the team, Chaos Warriors and Beastmen, start with Foul Appearance at Level 0, indicating that they have not yet been touched by the disease. Beastmen of Nurgle lose their Horns initially but gain them as the rot progresses.

After each match, before allocating Star Player Points, roll a D6 for each player on the team. If the number rolled exceeds the player's Foul Appearance level his Rot has progressed further and the Foul Appearance skill is increased by one level. A roll of 1 always indicates no change in condition, hence at level 0 the player must roll a 2 or more to become afflicted. Once afflicted consult the following table:

Foul Appearance Table
LevelEffects on Player
0Skin discolours. No effects on player's profile.
1Pustules break out all over body. -1 AV.
2Skin rots. Additional -1 AV.
3Player sprouts a horn. Gains Horns.
4Eyes grow together. -1 AG.
5Feet grow claws. -1 MA & gain Claw.
6Play one further game with -1 MA, -2 ST and -1 AG.

No characteristic may go below 1. At Foul Appearance level 0 the player receives none of the effects described for this skill. Upon reaching level 6 the player plays one last match after which he melts into a pool of goo. This makes him somewhat redundant on the Blood Bowl field.

Opposing players wishing to block a player afflicted with the Rot must first roll equal to or less than the player's Foul Appearance level on D6. Failure indicates that the blocking player is so nauseated by his opponent's state of corruption that he refuses to go anywhere near him.

If a Nurgle's Rotter Badly Hurts or inflicts a Serious Injury on an opponent and it is not healed by an Apothecary, roll a D6. On a 1 the victim is afflicted with Nurgle's Rot, gains Foul Appearance level 1 and immediately loses one point of AV. The victim is shunned by his former team mates and has no choice but to join the Rotters if he wishes to continue playing Blood Bowl.

Roll D6 for each newly afflicted player. On a 2-6 the player signs up with Nurgle's Rotters and may be added to the team roster for their next game. On a roll of 1 the player climbs onto the roof of the stadium and ends his career abruptly by power diving onto the astrogranite.

If for any reason a Nurgle's Rot victim player has the Regeneration ability, he may actually be able to reverse the progress of the disease. At the end of a match make a Regeneration roll as normal; on a successful roll the player decreases his Foul Appearance level by 1 to a minimum of level 1.

Characteristics are not lost or recovered as a result of Regeneration, but at least the player's life expectancy may be increased. Similarly a Healing Scroll magic special play card may be used to automatically remove one level of Foul Appearance from a player; this may be used at any point during the match or in the post-match sequence.

Originator's Comments and Playtest Q & A.

I started to think about Nurgle's Rotters when the second edition of the game came out. The line drawing of the piles of goo stayed in my mind and over time, these rules have grown. I wrote these and have playtested them exhaustively. Some friends have written to me over the Internet with their comments. These are written below...

Q: Does this mean all the Nurgle teams would be like this? (i.e. all have Nurgle's Rot)
A: No. It is up to the individual coach / commissioner. I would rule that if a coach opted to play Chaos, and wanted to use Plaguebearers and a Great Unclean One (Citadel Journal No.8), then he would have to use the rules for Nurgle's Rot. I would advise the commissioner to try to have only one Rotter team in each league.
Many of the questions concerned the cost of the players, especially the Beastmen. The complaint was that the players were overpriced.
Q: Beastmen are overpriced. Why not reduce the cost?
A: I think that you are paying for the concept of the Rot, by losing the extra 10,000 GCs per beastman. Soon enough they are going to get infected and have Foul Appearance (which is a 20K Physical Ability), and can use it all the time. Normal Beastmen get Horns at the start of their playing career, but only one of them can use it per turn! You are also paying in advance for the infected opponents that your team will recruit for free.
Q: Beastmen are over priced. Shouldn't the FA effects be stronger?
A: It is just a question of game balance and I'd prefer them to be more difficult than a 'normal' Chaos team. Jervis has *spiked* the DeathZone teams (e.g. Halflings and Undead), so that they should be more of a challenge. I'd like the Rotters to be like that, only more so.
Summary: The cost of the individual players is balanced by the unique abilities of the whole team.
Q: The Champion doesn't deteriorate as a result of the disease, right?
A: Correct. He has the skill Foul Appearance, as described in DeathZone.
Q: If the Champion dies, can he be replaced?
A: If he is slain then the status of Champion can be adopted by one of his team mates. If the new Champion has the Rot, at a specific level, then its progress is halted at the stage that it has reached. The team 'vote' for who becomes the new Champion, so it is your choice. It can be a Beastman, a Chaos Warrior or even a player 'recruited' from another team.
Q: Also, how about allies? I think the allies should be as stated in the Citadel Journal, i.e. Ogre, Goblin, Skaven, Dark Elf.
A: Nurgle's Rotters do not take allies as nobody in their right mind would actually join them. It would be a death sentence! Instead, the Rotters can acquire 'converts' which could include any Race. If you injure it, then there is a chance that it could play on your team (for a short while)!
Q: If an opposing player succumbs to the disease, is he deleted from his original roster?
A: Precisely! He joins your team, if you want him. You may make way for him/it by 'cutting' a current team member, if you have no available spaces on your roster. For TR purposes he costs his list price. He has Foul Appearance Level 1.
Q: What are the effects of Regeneration?
A: Regeneration effectively means that the progress of the rot is halted indefinitely, as long as the player is at a low level when he gets the skill. He has a 1 in 6 chance of getting worse and a 1 in 2 chance of being recovered.
Q: How could Undead be infected?
A: Nurgle's Rot doesn't only kill, but it also ruins flesh. A wise necromancer has gone to a lot of trouble to keep his Mummies in good condition and his ghouls alive. While the necromancer may not care about the Zombies, he must protect his investment. Nurgle warbands can consist of plague zombies, so the sorcerers of Nurgle must be able to maintain the Undead state of a subject. They cannot Raise the Dead, but perhaps they can sustain zombie existence.
Q: Isn't Coaching the Rotters a lot of work in the book-keeping department?
A: Keep a portion of the Skills section of the roster free, or better still, draw a line down so that you have a fifth box after AV, and call this the FA Lvl box. Simply write your roster in pencil and make the necessary additions/deletions as appropriate.
Q: Am I correct in assuming that FA Lvl 0 and FA Lvl 1 are functionally the same, except for the AV loss?
A: No! I haven't explained that well enough. FA Lvl 0 is a condition which has not yet started to express itself. Any player in this state can be blocked as normal and cannot exert the -1 modifier (on passing and catching) associated with Foul Appearance.
A Chaos Beastman in these circumstances is effectively a Human lineman, The team behaves quite normally at the beginning, but becomes fun after a few games.

And Finally...

Some people complained that the players got too powerful when they got the Claw skill, especially as the opposing coach had to roll a 5 or 6, on a D6, just to block him.

I answered saying...

At FA Lvl 6, the player plays one final game with the following punitive characteristic reduction: -1 MA, -2 ST, -1 AG. As the average Beastman player will be 5/3/2/6 [Horns, Block, Claw], at FA Lvl 5, he suffers a very high chance of deteriorating to level 6 after each game (1-5 on a D6). He is not likely to stay at FA Lvl 5 for many games and for his final game, he becomes 4/1/1/6 [Horns, Block, Claw]. It might be argued that at FA level 5 or 6 the Beastman is virtually unstoppable, but with his AG who on Earth is going to pass to him??