The Iron Satyr

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 94.5: The Iron Satyr




It’s come to my attention that I missed covering a planar adventure from just a little ways back, even though I’ve tried to be more careful about these things in third edition. “The Iron Satyr” was published in the March 2004 issue of Dungeon (#108), and I’d erroneously filed it away in my head as part of the Shackled City adventure path because of when it was published. In fact it’s a standalone adventure by Scott Stearns, a freelancer not involved with Wizards or Paizo, and I believe this is his sole contribution to the game. Unfortunately, that he wasn’t a professional is pretty evident in the work as a whole, which I found myself surprised to see printed due to issues of, well, quality. I don’t enjoy bashing this sort of thing—more power to people wishing to put out their amateur writing, it’s something I wish I was bolder about with my own creative work—so this isn’t going to be a terribly long article, but I will give an overview and a few thoughts below.

For reasons silly and convoluted, the central statue of a town is a petrified goristro, which locals call a satyr even though it’s, umm, 30 feet tall and obviously demonic. Whatever. A hobgoblin cleric of Maglubiyet wants to bring the statue back to Acheron in order to help in his god’s endless wars against Gruumsh, only the statue is too big to get through the nearest portal. He sets about expanding the portal’s size, and meanwhile his frienemy succubus wishes to foil his plan because, I don’t know, she’s evil. Part one of the adventure sees the players investigating this statue and its local town, until suddenly the statue disappears (nothing can be done to prevent this) and presumably the PCs chase after it, though why they’d want to do that is largely beyond me. I guess that even though they’re 11th level, they’ve got nothing better to do. *shrug*.

You know I love a good map, and Craig Zipse does a good job here in making this dull city at least look beautiful.

The adventure’s second chapter takes place on Thuldanin, the second layer of Acheron, and it starts off well. Several paragraphs stress making this location as alien as possible, and at first it seems like the tone of this location, a world filled with endless reams of decaying weapons inside an enclosed cube, might even be relevant. I particularly liked a passage about “oddly cubic-shaped” moons drifting through the sky as a way of describing the islands of earth floating through the plane. However, that’s pretty much it as far as the plane is concerned. PCs immediately head to a siege tower that acts as a small dungeon for this adventure, and there they fight some goblins, some demons, a night hag and her hellounds, and ultimately the ex-statue goristro. A tiny bit of finagling with gravity is the only thing that separates any of this from a location on the Prime, and there’s no reason to see any other part of the cube players start on, let alone other cubes.


Sadly, “The Iron Satyr” manages to make Lord of the Iron Fortress seem like it makes great use of Acheron by comparison, and I found that adventure wanting. Beyond this, it seemed extremely easy for a party of its prescribed level, with the only challenge being its final boss fight; the search part of the adventure felt like it was made for fifth level characters, not 11th. Beyond this, the actual logic of the adventure’s backstory seemed off to me. Let me quote some comments about it I found on an ancient forum post:

Why is the demon still around? … How could a village forget a near epic spell battle and the resulting iron demon left behind? It’s a 30-foot tall iron demon. Why is it called a satyr? Does it have a pan flute or something? Why has this never been investigated before? Long-term exposure produces petrified stone? Wouldn’t a simple divination or good knowledge check tell someone what it is? Can’t the whole problem be solved by a few Rusting Grasp spells or somebody’s pet rust monster? 

Nothing suspicious about this statue, nothing at all. In fact, it’s so inviting we should build a town around it.

Beyond these issues, there was no real hook here, such that I don’t see why a party of high level adventurers would give two craps about this tiny town and its far-too-obviously-suspicious statue. Maybe I’ve always played in more independently-minded campaigns, but this is too lukewarm of a mystery to warrant my interest when I’m easily the most powerful warrior or wizard in the country. When players do ultimately head to Acheron, the reason seems to be that it’s what the DM wants them to do, which is the worst motivation of all.


Ok, I said I wouldn’t write too much about this adventure yet I’ve ended up going on about it anyhow. Frankly, a lot of third edition Dungeon adventures had similar issues to this one, it’s just that “The Iron Satyr” happened to spend half its time in an outer plane so it came to my attention. I say skip it entirely, as it had no effects on the planes and nothing interesting to say about them—sometimes these articles are obscure for a reason, and that certainly seems to be the case here.


And on a somewhat related note, I’m not going to cover another one-off Dungeon article that ever-so-briefly journeys off the Prime Material Plane, “The Fireplace Level” from issue #128, March 2005. It’s the concluding chapter of the “Vampires of Waterdeep” trilogy of adventures from Eric L. Boyd, and requires a visit to the Ethereal Plane. However, it only leaves the Prime for a tiny bit of time, and what’s more the adventure as a whole is just a slog through a dungeon. The only real aspect of interest to it is that Robert Lazzaretti drew its maps, so at least there’s one thing to recommend about it, but the adventure adds nothing to the planes and is certainly not worth reading through.

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