Red Mercury
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Basic Information

Red Mercury is a top-secret mercury-based compound used in the creation of certain nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Or, maybe it's just the code name for some material that isn't red and isn't at all related to mercury, but is still used in weapon construction. Sources disagree on whether it goes in the bomb itself and somehow amplifies or triggers the explosion, or if it's used in the process of enriching uranium to just shorten the amount of time needed to amass a nuclear arsenal. Sources also differ as to whether it is used to make a super-strong boosted fission weapon, or a particularly nasty dirty bomb, or maybe a "clean" neutron bomb, or perhaps it serves a role in the miniaturization of a suitcase nuke, and some have even said it's used to make stealth technology applicable to nuclear missiles. From the GM's perspective, it's amazing because this one substance can do anything you want in regards to the most powerful weaponry in the world. Presumably, someone somewhere knows what it really is and how it works, and it's a tightly-controlled military secret that's just been garbled by the press over the years.

Or, it's nothing but a hoax, a confidence game that has been used since at least 1979 to fleece or entrap governmental bad-actors and terrorist cells alike. Honestly, it's unclear if the stuff even exists, but that didn't stop it from having an asking price of nearly $2 Million per Kilo on the black market in the 1990s. Were those black market sellers irresponsible mad scientists, immoral gun-runners, daring con artists or clever undercover cops? They were certainly at least one of the above.

All of which makes red mercury perfect for gaming.



Game and Story Use

  • A potential Applied Phlebotinum, especially for a high-stakes espionage game where nuclear arsenals are in play (or under development). When an atomic bomb just isn't good enough, and you need a real bunker buster or an especially horrific dirty bomb, red mercury can serve as the mcguffin or technobabble buzzword to lend your craziest plot developments the veneer of scientific plausibility.
  • Con artists working a major grift (conning the terrorists with dummy material) could complicate any of those plots. Even if red mercury really does turn out to be a real thing that does something specific within your rules set or setting, there could still be con men or sting operations using fake red mercury as bait.
    • That is a very brave conman, if they are daring to steal from a nuke-building terrorist cell. His victims won't go to the police to report the crime, obviously, but they may well try to kill him if they can do so in a way that doesn't expose their cell to the authorities. (Coincidentally, I hear this red mercury stuff can generate 1.21 gigawatts.)
    • If a friendly government is using this to lure out bad actors, when the PCs close in on the seller they may find that he is spirited away or protected from on high by a government conspiracy. Telling friend from foe from fake-out will require a lot of detective work on the part of the PCs.
    • For great plot, consider having everyone involved being an undercover government employee, possibly with several agencies, not all of them from different nations, conspiring to arrest one another for what turns out to be a non-existent crime. Bonus points if one of them is doing it deliberately to burn, flush or just troll the others.
  • In wainscot fantasy this may turn out to be some alchemical substance (alchemists seem to have had a fatal attraction to mercury) or something otherwise mystical and/or extradimensional.
  • For sci-fi this could be some ultra-tech material, possibly a nannite fluid, maybe salvaged from some downed UFO. Some kind of ultramundane allotrope of a known element may also be an option.
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