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

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
PapersAndPaychecks said:
*grins*

It's more complex than this, but I'm disinclined to argue metallurgy any further for fear of getting lynched. :)

Yeah - the thing I didn't include is "up to a point." But the link I provided does give a pretty good idea of the basics of medieval iron/steel smelting.
 

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RSKennan

Explorer
glass said:
In D&D terms, cold iron is iron which has been forged using special low temperature techniques, which supposedly makes the iron more 'natural' than normal iron or steel. Hence it's anti-fey and demon properties.


glass.

This is my understanding as well. D&D canon says fey are somehow 'especially natural', but all of the early source research I've done portrays them as otherworldly. Using earlier sources, it makes perfect sense that cold iron would harm fey.

What's more natural than the mineral at the heart of the earth?

Edit: I've changed "original source" to early source, as the original sources for fey folklore were storytellers, and the coming of christianity altered many of the stories.
 
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Kelleris

Explorer
Whizbang Dustyboots said:
I just wanted to say "fallacious" on this thread. That's a fun word.

Yes, but I prefer "specious" myself.

And I like the "cast, not forged" idea. I'm one of those people that finds the image of improvising silver weapons by melting down your (high-quality) coinage to be nifty-keen.
 
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SidusLupus

First Post
What's wrong with just renaming it since the hang up is the name and not the substance?

Take a page from Tad Williams and call it black iron or something. That sounds cooler anyways imo.

Cold Black Iron!

or something.
 

Farganger

First Post
Shazman said:
Cold iron in 3.5 isn't the same as iron or steel. It's a unique metal found deep underground that is naturally resistant to magic. Just check out the special materials section in the DMG.

My thought as well.

Since the SRD also defines "cold iron" as a special type of iron, I don't see its existence as more puzzling (or worthy of complicated explanation) than that of mithral or adamantine.

Interesting discussion though. The folklore angle is the one I've always played up . . . it would be nice to know the primary source for that.
 

moritheil

First Post
Farganger said:
My thought as well.

Since the SRD also defines "cold iron" as a special type of iron, I don't see its existence as more puzzling (or worthy of complicated explanation) than that of mithral or adamantine.

Interesting discussion though. The folklore angle is the one I've always played up . . . it would be nice to know the primary source for that.

I've attempted to broaden the discussion here:

http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=130631
 

Cedric

First Post
Historically, 'cold iron' is a shortening of 'cold wrought iron'. Wrought iron is usually a very low carbon content steel that is worked with a hammer while white hot and shaped with the hammer into the desired form.

However, you can work it with a hammer while it is merely warm enough for the iron to begin to flow.

It's technically a form of steel, however, the carbon content is so low (< 3%) that you may as well just call it iron. It has enough carbon to change the manner in which it rusts. Instead of rust eating pits in the iron, it usually forms a reddish/brown coating of mottled colors on the surface that are often used in art because they are attractive and give an aged look to an item.

True "cold wrought iron" ...while once prevalent, is now only made by specific artists and blacksmiths. It was made by poor smiths in years past because they lacked the resources necessary to make, purchase or pay for time at a forge. Having to work at cooler temperatures required patience and a great deal of strength (a good hammer helped too).

This became known as Cold Wrought Iron...

There are many theories why creatures of Faerie origin (or sometimes demonic depending on text) are susceptible to Cold Wrought Iron.

This goes WAY back in history and is right up there with Silver for werewolves, running water for vampires and the like.

My own theory as to why Cold Wrought Iron was thought to harm the Fae is that making something useful and difficult like a sword out of cold iron is a long, laborious, extremely difficult process that requires a very skilled smith. Anything that hard is likely to take on an element of mysiticism to it, as the general populous feel that if its so far beyond their ability, it must be magical.

Hence...Cold Wrought Iron became thought of as magical iron...and since the process was so unnatural, creatures that are so uniquely tied to nature as the Fae would be harmed by it.

Demons were added much, much later, largely based on the term 'cold'...cause if its cold, demons must not like it, right?

Cedric
 

mythusmage

Banned
Banned
We do have our share of misunderstandings and misapprehensions here. :) From my reading ...

Allotropic (pure) iron is soft and weak, compared to most alloys. It is the hardest and strongest of the pure metals.

Wrought iron is what you get when you smelt iron ore. Also known as pig iron. It's the raw material for cast iron and steel.

Steel is either wrought iron heated in charcoal, or the modern alloy made by adding carbon to molten iron. The modern stuff is much better. Though it should be noted that true steel needs manganese as a catalyst for proper alloying. However, too much manganese turns the steel brittle. Something the Italians ran into during World War II (Italian armor plate would crack when hit by an anti-tank shell).

Cast iron is made by adding carbon and silicon to molten iron, and then casting it. Cooled fast it becomes black iron, cooled slowly white iron. Gray iron is cast iron that cooled at a normal rate.

Note that metal can be smelted without melting it. All you need to do is heat it until it becomes plastic. At which time material with a different melting point will separate out. But not entirely, which is how you get slag. Cast metals are stronger than wrought metals by and large, while die cast metals are stronger yet. However, die casting involves very high pressure and very small lots. For examples of die cast metal check the change in your pocket.

The whole 'cold iron' thing? It's what you get when a clueless academic tries shrouding his tush. It's of a type as the idea Chuchulain's gaer bolg (foot spear) was some sort of spiky soccer ball. It's iron that burns the fey; gives them an incentive to learn well the arts of war. (He can't hit you, he can't hurt you.)
 

I'd guess that the point of Kipling using the phrase "Cold Iron" was to contrast it with the hot lead bullets. And I'd further guess that he meant "iron" to refer to steel, because that's what soldiers used in his day.

Giving things DR 10/iron has some interesting effects. Sure, PCs can usually hurt them directly, but the druid's damage output takes a hit (both the summons and the wildshape). Not necessarily a bad thing.
 
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TheAuldGrump

First Post
GOLD is for the mistress—silver for the maid—
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron—Cold Iron—is master of them all.”

So he made rebellion ’gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
“Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
“But Iron—Cold Iron—shall be master of you all!”

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,
When the cruel cannon-balls laid ’em all along;
He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,
And Iron—Cold Iron—was master of it all!

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)
“What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”
“Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,
For Iron—Cold Iron—is master of men all.”

“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown—
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”
“As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For Iron—Cold Iron—must be master of men all!”

Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)
“Here is Bread and here is Wine—sit and sup with me.
Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall
How Iron—Cold Iron—can be master of men all!”

He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread,
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He Said:
“See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron—Cold Iron—to be master of men all:

“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.
Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.
I forgive thy treason—I redeem thy fall—
For Iron—Cold Iron—must be master of men all!”

“Crowns are for the valiant—sceptres for the bold!
Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold.”
“Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,
“But Iron—Cold Iron—is master of men all!
Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!”

The Auld Grump, who has used this poem in a Victorian Changeling: the Dreaming game

*EDIT* Forgot to mention - the poem is Cold Iron, by Rudyard Kipling.
 
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glass

(he, him)
Kid Charlemagne said:
It's important on this subject to differentiate between "real life" and "D&D."
True.
Not sure where that comes from - that is how medieval smelting techniques prouce steel, but it certainly doesn't preclude the production of iron. The way it happens is that the longer you work the iron, the more carbon gets introduced until you get steel.

Not only is this wrong, but it not what the nice link you supplied actually says:

Here is a great link on the subject.

The Age of Iron said:
At more than 2% carbon, iron alloys change in a completely unexpected way: they melt at lower temperatures than pure iron. So the first iron alloy to be used for pouring out into molds was a high-carbon alloy. It became known as cast iron or pig iron (from the traditional shape of the molds). Cast iron is very strong, but brittle. This traditional terminology is confusing ("cast iron" has more carbon than "steel"), and the products are not now (and never were) manufactured in sequence of increasing or decreasing carbon. I shall return to cast iron later in the chapter.

glass.
 
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S'mon

Legend
Brother MacLaren said:
Giving things DR 10/iron has some interesting effects. Sure, PCs can usually hurt them directly, but the druid's damage output takes a hit (both the summons and the wildshape). Not necessarily a bad thing.

Yeah, druids aren't exactly underpowered in 3e. I like this approach, for one thing it goes against WoTC Environmentalist orthodoxy, which can't be bad. :cool:
 

glass

(he, him)
billd91 said:
The way I play it, cold iron is pretty much plain iron and not steel (negligible carbon content and no other explicit alloying other than remnant impurities).

Unless someone in your campaign (the dwarves maybe) has invented the blast furnace, that description applies to steel just as much as iron.


glass.
 

Thanks Glass, I didn't personally feel able to get into that. I stand by my first statement: Metallurgy in D&D is borked, and therefore needs to be treated with enormous caution if you have any players with a clue about the subject.
 


Stone Dog

Adventurer
To add some information to the fire, Castle Falkenstein has a fun take on this.

Faeries are basically energy beings in the end. Iron disrupts their energy patterns. They don't like ANY of it, not steel or any other form, but what they REALLY hate is Star Iron. Meteoric Iron. Yes, the Iron from Space. It is, swear to god, just like kryptonite. You get any amount within a yard or so of them and they get a splitting headache. About half a pound of it and it starts actually damaging them from about the same distance. Usually faeries that are slain come back after a while when they have had the chance to reform, but if they are slain by Star Iron they are dead forever.

Thought it might be fun to consider.
 

glass

(he, him)
glass said:
billd91 said:
The way I play it, cold iron is pretty much plain iron and not steel (negligible carbon content and no other explicit alloying other than remnant impurities).
Unless someone in your campaign (the dwarves maybe) has invented the blast furnace, that description applies to steel just as much as iron.

Actually, thinking about it, maybe someone has invented the blast furnace. Certainly, D&D steel seems to be very good (swords don't break even when striking strength 40 blows againts iron golems).

Thus steel in the campaign would be (more or less) modern steel, and 'iron' could include the whole gamut of lower tech irons & steels.

Interesting thought.


glass.
 

glass

(he, him)
Stone Dog said:
To add some information to the fire, Castle Falkenstein has a fun take on this.

Faeries are basically energy beings in the end. Iron disrupts their energy patterns. They don't like ANY of it, not steel or any other form, but what they REALLY hate is Star Iron. Meteoric Iron. Yes, the Iron from Space. It is, swear to god, just like kryptonite. You get any amount within a yard or so of them and they get a splitting headache. About half a pound of it and it starts actually damaging them from about the same distance. Usually faeries that are slain come back after a while when they have had the chance to reform, but if they are slain by Star Iron they are dead forever.

In considering regigging DR and materials, one of the ideas I had was making fey sensitive to or poisoned by iron, rather than having it simply penetrate DR.


glass.
 

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