Like his brother gods, Nurgle grew from a single survivalist emotion: in his case, the emotion was despair. Nurgle is the Chaos god of disease, decay, despair and destruction. Despite the nature of his influence, he takes a keen interest in his victims, caring for them in a jovial manner similar to a loving grandfather; for this reason he is frequently referred to as Grandfather Nurgle or Papa Nurgle, as well as the Lord of Decay. He is depicted as a huge, bloated humanoid, covered with boils and sores, his body completely rotten from disease. He is typically accompanied by an enveloping cloud of buzzing flies.

Like all of the four major Chaos gods, Nurgle is opposed by one of his fellows. In Nurgle's case, his anthithesis is Tzeentch, the god of change and sorcery. Where Nurgle is the deified embodiment of mortal despair; Tzeentch is the deified embodiement of mortal hope. This antagonistic relationship effects the armies dedicated to each god. The correct adjective to indicate individuals and events related to this God is "Nurglesque".

Cult of Nurgle

As the god of disease and decay, Nurgle's followers are vastly interested in spreading disease. His followers, in both game settings, become infected with horrific diseases which cause them to appear bloated and rotting. In Warhammer Fantasy, this causes them to have a frightening appearance; his more powerful champions will be gifted with very powerful diseases which cause them to become immune to pain and injury.

In the Warhammer 40,000 setting, Nurgle is served primarily by the Chaos Space Marines of the Death Guard legion, although other legions also occasionally serve him. Like their Fantasy counterparts, these "Plague Marines" take on the diseases of their patron, seeking to further spread them throughout the galaxy. This causes their bodies to rot, making them more difficult to incapacitate as they become immune to pain and injury, and in the case of more dedicated champions, the diseases, particularly the disease called "Nurgle's Rot" can actually spread during battles, quickly incapacitating opponents. Nurgle's sacred number in Warhammer 40,000 is seven, so Plague Marines are frequently formed in units consisting of a multiple of seven.

Various daemons are available to followers of Nurgle. What follows is a list of these, and a brief in-universe description:

  • Nurglings - are tiny, mischievous daemons, resembling a miniaturized version of Nurgle himself. They normally appear in monstrous swarms which accompany armies dedicated to Nurgle. Occasionally very dedicated champions of Nurgle will become infested with Nurglings, which will live in gaping wounds and orifices on the champion's body; when the champion comes under attack, these will help defend their host.
  • Beasts of Nurgle - are large slugs with writhing, seething 'manes' of proboscis-like tentacles atop their stumpy, amorphous heads, they secrete a caustic slime of which they leave large trails in their wake and are often described as playful in almost a puppy-like manner, often poisoning and contaminating their would-be "friends" with their eager manifestations of affection.
  • Plaguebearers - are rotting, wasted creatures of vaguely humanoid size and appearance, with a single burning eye. 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. They are said to be the lost victims of the Nurgle's Rot, this claim being particularly emphasized in the Warhammer gaming system.
  • Great Unclean Ones - are massive, bloated disease carriers, whose decaying flesh bulges with corpulent cancers. They usually carry a titanic rusted blade into battle. They generally act as the leaders and father figures for the other daemons, epitomizing Nurgle's joyful, paternal nature. Due to their bloated bodies Great Unclean Ones are extremely hard to kill.