Welcome back guardians. Today we will cover the origins of the exotic pulse rifle, Red Death. Thank you to everyone who assisted with capturing this footage and also a big thanks to the subscribers who suggested this as a lore topic. The video will follow the standard format, I will present the facts first and then we will dive into the speculation.
Let’s start with the flavor text of Red Death which reads
“Vanguard policy urges Guardians to destroy this weapon on sight.”
Many of you will know, that this was not the original flavor text and it once had an additional sentence at the end, this read,
“It is a Guardian killer.”
By looking more closely at the flavor text, we can get a clue as to the timeline and origins of Red Death. The first clue is the reference to “The Vanguard Policy”, which means the Vanguard must have been present and had witnessed the destructive nature of Red Death, leading to the formation of a policy. So if we can determine when the Vanguard was formed we can get a rough timeline of Red Death.
A brief history of Destiny would read; The Traveler come to our solar system, we entered the Golden Age and expanding across the universe, The Darkness appeared, humanity was almost lost, the Traveler settled on Earth in a crippled state, known as the Collapse, then we entered the Dark Age, a time of terrible suffering and evil, there was very little unity between humanity however we eventually banded together and entered the City Age. This was when the first refuges gathered below the Traveler and the first Titans constructed the walls to defend the City. However, the City Age still struggled, warlords and wilderness firedoms clung to power, causing unrest within the City. A Faction War erupted and brought the City to it’s knees, it threatened to shatter it’s existence. The Faction, grimoire card tells us, that when the fighting become intolerable, a group of guardians came together to end the conflict and create a new order. They ended the faction wars and together formed the Consensus. The Consensus and the Speaker then ruled over the city, and any surviving factions had to pursue their goals and agendas through civil channels.
I believe that following this, the Consensus and the Speaker made a decision to elect the Vanguard, however you could argue that maybe the Vanguard even existed in some form prior to the Consensus, during the Faction Wars. Regardless, the role of the Vanguard was to provide a command structure and provide mentorship and leadership to new guardians within the City. They were elite Veterans who had the skills to coordinate attacks, defenses and espionage.
The Vanguard also has a seat among the Consensus. The Ghost Fragement: City Age describes how the Consensus develops and advances into a democratic system, where representatives from each Faction have a role in policy and legislation over the city. The card goes on to describe a discussion between Commander Zavala, the Titan Vanguard and other Consensus members. They unanimously decide to vote in Future War Cult and quote
“grant the Future War Cult access to the Tower and a seat among us”
. As you can see, it appears, that the Consensus consists of representatives from each Faction that are granted a seat within its council. The Consensus can then make decisions on policy and legislation. Any proposals and then sent to the Speaker.
So now that we have some knowledge of the History of the Vanguard, we can put this information together; during the City Age, the Consensus was formed, the Vanguard was also formed at some point during this time, the Vanguard introduced a policy, and the policy was if the weapon Red Death was ever seen, that it would be destroyed on site.
I speculate, that the Vanguard created this policy because the fear and power of Red Death threatened the city age, threatened to throw them back into a Faction War. It was known as a “Guardian Killer” and the Vanguard knew, as long as this weapon still existed there would be unrest. They could no longer fight each other like they had during the Faction Wars, they must band together to fight a common enemy. This is further supported by the Bungie News Post, Destiny Drawing Board: Red Death. A concept artist, Tom Doyle says this about Red Death,
“A savage, bandit weapon. It provides a look into the world outside the City.”
This confirms Red Death was present once the City was formed and that it was used by bandits, guardians outside the City walls, guardians that would threaten the existence of the City, guardians who needed a faction war to claw their way to the top.
Now lets move on to the rest of the description of the grimoire card for Red Death. It read’s
“Only rumors tell of the mad Guardian who fashioned this butcher’s tool. But its power is undeniable, and fear is a formidable weapon.”
Most people are drawn to the words “Mad guardian” and instantly you think of a Warlock. In Destiny’s history, Warlocks are generally the ones that descend into madness.
Exhibit A: Toland the Shattered.
Exhibit B: Osiris, the Exiled.
Furthermore, if you search all the girmoire cards for the keyword, madness, you will find the word madness is almost always associated with Toland or Osiris. For example, in Ghost Fragement: The Darkness 3, Toland’s journal reads
“I drive myself to the edge of madness trying to explain the truth.”
The City Age grimoire card says quote
The Osiris grimoire card says
“Perhaps what drives a Warlock to madness is the truth? “
In addition, Toland has an obsession with Death, and seeks out Ir Yut, the Deathsinger, in the hope to learn the Deathsinger’s song and evade Death himself. So potentially another link to Red Death.
However, apart from this common key word of Madness, and maybe the loose connection with the Deathsinger, I have not been able to find any other evidence that Toland or Osiris fashioned Red Death. In fact, I even think it quite unlikely that Toland fashioned Red Death because his Journal has the schematics to make Bad JuJu.
I believe the answer lies within one of the few cards, that refers to madness and has nothing to do with Toland or Osiris, and the card is Ghost Fragment: Future War Cult.
The card depicts Future War Cult placing it’s members in some sort of device in order to have visions of the future. Let me read a portion of the description
“At 11:03 she reported a sensation of floating. At 11:06, a sensation of lights within the darkness of the Device. Between 11:06 and 11:32 she reported these lights variously as white, golden, and blood-red. The Device recorded temporal displacement of her consciousness to the order of six degrees. At seven she began screaming. Brainscans near-death. Removed from the Device at 11:34. She believes without question that the Device granted her a vision of the future, and that it was one of utter Darkness.” The card goes on to say “Too many subjects come back damaged. Mad. We are grasping at straws…Forty-seven human subjects; eleven report timelines in which the Darkness has already prevailed, thirteen report timelines in which the City has fallen. Twenty-three babbled madness. Hopeless. Trapped.”
Normally, it is Warlocks going mad as they seek the truth, some even intentionally kill themselves to have visions, only to have their ghosts revive them. Whereas, in this scenario any guardian can enter the device, Warlock or otherwise, and the visions they had of the future sent them mad. Visions that the Darkness had already prevailed.
I speculate that one of those Future War Cult members, become the mad guardian that created Red Death. I believe during the Faction Wars, FWC began using this device to see into the future, to help secure their survival during this age and multiple cult members were driven to madness, one of them created Red Death. Red Death was then used for murder of Guardians throughout the Faction Wars and when the Consensus and Vanguard eventually formed, the weapon was out-lawed and ordered to be destroyed.
That is just one theory to where this mad guardian came from, so now let’s look at how they actually fashioned this weapon. I believe the answer to this question can be found by analyzing the design of the weapon, the perks of the weapon and using information from the previously mentioned Bungie post “Destiny Drawing Board: Red Death”.
Most people notice the blood and the knife as Red Death’s most striking feature, however, a lot of people when they first saw this gun, had to do a double take,
“Is this a Pulse Rifle or an Auto Rifle?”
The Weapon archetype says pulse rifle, but it looks like an Auto rifle. Red Death has a very unique perk, it restores health with each kill, a perk that is shared with an auto rifle, SUROS Regime. Coincidence or intentional, that both these weapons share the same perk?
The SUROS Regime grimoire card says SUROS design was based upon Golden Age schematics however it’s production was shortened due to the lack of Smartmatter. Other weapons developed from Golden Age technology also refer to this smart technology. Super Good Advice has smart rounds that allows bullets to return to the magazine. The Truth rocket launcher has smart tracking. But, was it this Smartmatter of the SUROS regime that gave the weapon the ability to regenerate health and if so, was it somehow incorporated into Red Death.
I believe the Destiny Drawing Board post gives us a clue to this theory. It says
“A savage, bandit weapon. It’s provides a look into the world outside the City. This new frontier is harsh and, at times, cruel. This is a weapon that was taken from a fallen Guardian. The new owner had it repainted and modded – the optics were even hacked with new graphics.”
Outside of the City Walls, it appears that it is quite dangerous, and there were bandits, warlords and factions fighting for control over the apocalyptic landscape. We know that the Consensus and Vanguard eventually prevailed ending the Faction Wars however control and unity within the Tower was not without struggle and many guardians were banished. Toland and Osiris are proof of that, and the Ghost Fragment City Age grimoire card emphasizes that were a number of banishments during the City Age, quote
“we can’t afford any more banishments”.
Combining all this knowledge, here is my speculation; the Faction Wars begin, in order for Future War Cult to survive and win they begin experimenting with this device, the devices provides visions of the future however sends guardians mad, eventually the Consensus is formed and the Vanguard developed, the Faction Wars are ended, FWC is accepted into the Tower but one of their guardians who was maddened by the device is banished from the Tower. This guardian now roams the wilderness, maddened by the truth, he has seen the future, multiple timelines where the Darkness always prevailed.
Meanwhile, The Vanguard sends many guardians from the Tower on patrol missions, they often carry SUROS Regime. A patrolling guardian unfortunately crosses paths with the Mad guardian, the Mad guardian, feeling cheated, worthless and rejected by the Tower, rejected by the Consensus, the Vanguard and even his own faction, FWC, leads him to kill the patrol in anger. He collects SUROS Regime and as Bungie’s Tom Doyle says
“The new owner had it repainted and modded- the optics were even hacked with new graphics.”
The Mad Guardian fashions Red Death from Suros. That is why they share the same perks, that is why Red Death has the same frame of an auto rifle. Red Death still contains the smartmatter that allows health to be regenerated. The Mad guardian continues to stalk the wilderness, killing any guardians that he crosses. Angered by what Future War Cult did to him, angered by being banished from the Tower, enacting his revenge upon every guardian he faced. Reports flood back to the Vanguard and rumors spread of a mad guardian, wielding a blood stained rifle, easily distinguished by the bayonet.
The mad guardian had seen the Darkness prevail, in his mind he knew the City would eventually fall. This was his way of trying to survive. The weapon fed off the guardians light, maybe he could survive the Darkness, maybe the Darkness would pity him or even align with him because of the one man war he waged against the City.
Maybe the greatest evidence of this connection between Suros and Red Death is in the early concept art. You can see in the bottom corner, the weapon has the same shader as Suros, White and Red. When it was fashioned into Red Death, it become Red and Black.
My final piece of speculation is to why a knife is attached to the weapon. Well, I speculate that this is a giant clue that the mad guardian was not a Warlock but a Hunter. Hunters constantly debate about the perfect design of blade, and this mad guardian found the perfect design. Hunters roam the wilderness, expects in stalking their prey, experts in surviving beyond the wall. Like all good Hunters, he kept a trophy, a tally of his kills, 9 skulls etched into the frame, 9 guardians who had fallen to Red Death.
Next time you venture beyond the wall guardian, if you spot a Hunter with a blade attached to the muzzle of his rifle, I suggest you ignore Vanguard policy and run!
recalls Tom Doyle.
“Red Death was what we wrapped the visuals and the fiction around. It really drove all of the creative decisions.”
Like the heroes that will pack it in their inventory for select missions, the Red Death has a reputation that precedes it.
“A savage, bandit weapon. It’s provides a look into the world outside the City. This new frontier is harsh and, at times, cruel,” Tom observes. “This is a weapon that was taken from a fallen Guardian. The new owner had it repainted and modded – the optics were even hacked with new graphics.”
From my research, I have not been able to uncover any evidence that suggests Red Death was fashioned by Toland or by Osiris. Let
on sitehave more information about these timing of events, know, that the Vanguard were around during the beginning of the City Age, during the period where the Consensus and The Speaker were making decisions about legislation that would govern the city. If we then combine this with knowledge of the removal of the flavor text, “It is a Guardian Killer”, I would say that Red Death, was most active, it earned its reputation during the Faction Wars. This is a time that we know, people were killing people. The Vanguard likely witnessed the power of Red Death during the Faction Wars and hence when order came with the introduction of the consensus they introduced policy to destroy the weapon.