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WTF is "cold iron", and why's it so special?

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Just my two cents, but anyone who needs a sock puppet account is probably a sad little person. Anyway, back to cold iron and it's many uses! Can anyone tell me if it makes julienne fries?
Hmmm... that depends. Is "julienne" a condition, or a weapon special property?
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Yeah, I got the impression it was a sock puppet by another poster who wanted to stir stuff up without getting their main banned.
🤷‍♂️
I guess in theory you COULD travel to a new city, visit an internet café, set up a new email address, create a new ENworld account, troll your selected posts, and then just walk away, with little risk to your main.

As to why you would go through all that trouble, however, I cannot guess.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I guess in theory you COULD travel to a new city, visit an internet café, set up a new email address, create a new ENworld account, troll your selected posts, and then just walk away, with little risk to your main.

As to why you would go through all that trouble, however, I cannot guess.
I suppose one could do it that way? But just using a VPN or something is a lot easier, like how socks operate on any other social media.
Admittedly, though, the scenery is less exciting that way than travelling to exotic locales. ;)
 

Opinion: steel would not count as "cold iron."

Steel is an alloy.
"Cold iron", historically and in folklore means any iron or steel. Folks traditions documented from the Scottish highlands, for example, include using a nail or a pair of scissors to help ward off fairies or witches, in addition to the aforementioned use of horseshoes above doorways. Not some special unworked lump of iron, but standard worked metal.

Morgan Daimler said:
Lady Wilde suggested protecting infants from being taken as changelings by sewing a bit of iron into the hem of the child's clothes (Wilde, 1888). I was taught a modern version of this, where it was recommended that a steel safety pin be attached to a child's clothing, particularly sleepwear. Another commonly recommended protection for children and babies was to hang a pair of scissors, opened into the shape of a cross, above the cradle (Briggs, 1976). A horseshoe can be hung up over the door way, points up, which not only acts to ward off fairies but is also said to draw good luck. An iron knife or cross is also an excellent protection, either carried or hung up above the door or bed (Briggs, 1976). Robert Kirk in his 1691 treatise on the Good Neighbours mentions the practice of putting "bread, the Bible, or a piece of iron" in the bed of a woman giving birth to protect the infant from being stolen. In Welsh belief a knife, particularly of iron, was so effective a protection that should friendly fairies visit a home all knives were hidden from sight lest they be offended and if a traveling person was attacked by the Othercrowd he had only to pull his blade for them to disappear (Sikes, 1880). Another method found in Germanic and Norse traditions is to hammer an iron nail into a post near the doorway or alternately part of the door frame. Additionally it is said to be as effective to draw a circle using an iron nail or knife around what you want to protect (Gundarsson, 2007).

Cold iron as meaning some special material other than simply iron or steel is, as far as I've ever been able to make out, a modern misconception which was then codified in 3.5 D&D as being special iron from below ground worked at lower temperatures, to justify its rarity and so that D&D could make monsters (like fairies) which are vulnerable to "Cold Iron" without that being functionally meaningless because all ordinary swords are cold iron in the real-world meaning of the phrase. I have heard indications that the concept has since crept out from D&D to some adult fantasy fiction as well.
 
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MattW

Explorer
Perhaps "cold iron" is bog iron? There's something almost magical in the way it seems to grow in peat bogs (rather than being hacked out of rocks). And this article on Viking iron sounds like a spooky way of making semi-magical weapons out of bog iron.
 

This thread is so weird. It's 15 years old and almost nobody mentions that "cold iron" is supposed to mean the same thing that we mean when we say "cold steel". It just means a weapon made from iron (or steel).

Obviously, yes, in 2005 3.5e treated cold iron as a special material and then didn't describe what is was at all, but it's still a pretty common idiom.
 

Tantavalist

Explorer
That's pretty much it. Cold Iron is just Iron. And the origins of it being the bane of fairy beings comes from Irish myth. It's not hard to guess what ancient historical events the Celts driving the original rulers of Ireland away because they had iron might be a legendary retelling of.

As has been pointed out the issue thus becomes that there's nothing special about fairy beings because in most settings this means any iron weapon (or steel, because attempts to define them as different aren't based on metallurgy) can kill them and if iron is the default metal for making weapons as it is in most RPG settings, no more immunity for fairies.

I'd suggest taking the route of making this a feature and not a bug. Any mundane knife can kill the otherwise immortal elf-folk? Well, that would explain why humans are suddenly running everything and the Fae are retreating into hidden strongholds where they're seldom seen. The fact that iron is a poor metal for making bullets out of could also give a reason for monster hunters to use swords in settings where guns would otherwise be the default.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
Well - I always liked the idea of Cold Iron - so in my campaign it comes from veins of iron ore that are touched by the shadowfell (energy sucking plane rather than energy-suffused plane like the feywild) - the iron is naturally cold to the touch but otherwise similar to normal iron/steel. However, Fey creatures are Vulnerable to it.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
After discovering that "cold iron" was just a poetic way of saying "iron" I got kind of annoyed that D&D treated it like a special material. It feels like misinformation, to me.

It wouldn't be the first time a mythical being was repelled by something commonplace. What is it vampires are repelled by again? Sunlight? Running water? Garlic?
 

MGibster

Legend
After discovering that "cold iron" was just a poetic way of saying "iron" I got kind of annoyed that D&D treated it like a special material. It feels like misinformation, to me.
Yeah, D&D really isn't a reliable source. Just look at the Druid who scarcely resembles the Celtic version aside from having a scared plot of land. Though at one point, AD&D was my #1 source for names of polearms.
 

After discovering that "cold iron" was just a poetic way of saying "iron" I got kind of annoyed that D&D treated it like a special material. It feels like misinformation, to me.

It wouldn't be the first time a mythical being was repelled by something commonplace. What is it vampires are repelled by again? Sunlight? Running water? Garlic?
Pretty much. Heck even regular water will do in some stories. In Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, you could kill almost all vampires by tossing them in water. Except for the Rahab Clan vampires, they were immune to the acidic effect that water had on vampires and their clan gimmick was that of swimming vampires.
 

Didn't Demons/Devils in 3.0/3.5 edition also have like a thing where their damage reduction could be overcome by Cold Iron as well? The Fey I could understand why with Cold Iron but I could never figure out why Devils/Demons were allergic to it as well.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Didn't Demons/Devils in 3.0/3.5 edition also have like a thing where their damage reduction could be overcome by Cold Iron as well? The Fey I could understand why with Cold Iron but I could never figure out why Devils/Demons were allergic to it as well.
It was demons. I suspect it was a bit of the same with faeries, really. Plus, it served as a distinction from devils who could be harmed with silver.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
After discovering that "cold iron" was just a poetic way of saying "iron" I got kind of annoyed that D&D treated it like a special material. It feels like misinformation, to me.
In Irish legends, iron was supposed to be a powerful protection against magic - which may seem kind of weird to us today - but it may also be because, in Irish society, the blacksmith wasn't just a guy who made utilitarian stuff. He was magical. It's probably a descendent of the broader smith god tradition in Celtic cultures. And, ultimately, it may have derived from the idea that working iron was a difficult or magical process compared to dominant predecessor metals like bronze since the forge needed to be a lot hotter.

So exactly why "cold iron" was proof against magic or faeries? It may have had less to do with its intrinsic properties and more to do with the fact that the blacksmith worked magic.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
After discovering that "cold iron" was just a poetic way of saying "iron" I got kind of annoyed that D&D treated it like a special material. It feels like misinformation, to me.

It wouldn't be the first time a mythical being was repelled by something commonplace. What is it vampires are repelled by again? Sunlight? Running water? Garlic?
Yeah...it is poetic....."cold iron" just sounds so cool I had to revive it and it be a Thing in my campaign. Plus I love the odd Vulnerability or two...
 

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