Balin’s Holt

It's hard being an anti-magic city in a high magic setting.
It’s hard being an anti-magic city in a high magic setting.

The little town of Balin’s Holt was originally a large city called Fangaroot. Fangaroot had high crop yields and was very prosperous due to the healthy silt of the Black Lake the city. A Green Dragon, Kenderax, desired all the wealth the people of Fangaroot had acquired. This Dragon organized all the Kobolds in the Kobold Lands to the north of Fangaroot. They attacked and in the process Fangaroot’s physical shell was destroyed. Kenderax was slain by the Dwarven paladin, Shalein, before the citizens of Fangaroot abandoned the city to the Kobolds and fled south to found Dalleer.

In 616 BC, 430 years after Fangaroot fell, a descendant of Shalein, named Balin, decided to reclaim the city for his family’s honor. He led a band of like minded people against the Kobolds and managed to defeat them with Balin’s magical abilities and a Halfling scouting brigade led by Terry, the accomplished rogue, who disarmed the Kobolds’ strategically placed traps.

Balin headed the council of the new city and named it after himself when the councilors rejected using Fangaroot as the name again. Balin ruled fairly for many years and he never had a serious opponent in the annual elections for head councilor. Balin developed a strong friendship with Terry; but, with Terry’s unfortunate death, Balin became a recluse. He no longer attends the council meetings and is the leader only in title. He is only seen for the hour of midnight in the Dragon’s Den pub on the south of town looking out over the lake. The pub is named Shaelin’s Glen after Balin’s ancestor. When he goes there many people ask him sage questions that only he knows the answer to. Balin is also he only person licensed to sell or buy magic items in the city, making midnight hour at the Dragon’s Den very popular for the right kind of person.

With Balin gone the council has begun to increase taxes for scientific pursuits. Arcane magic is not very well thought of in Balin’s Holt. The people there see it as only destructive. They instead hope to use nature’s normal laws instead of manipulating them to create fire or lightning. Magic is not outlawed in the city, but it is pretty close to it. Magicians are constantly watched by the Forsakers, a group of secret police who forsake magic of all kinds and in doing so gain some immunity to it. Detection spell are punished as trespassing in people’s minds. Any crime committed with magic is punished doubly than if done without magic.

In contrast, divine magic is generally accepted by the people in Balin’s Holt. It saved their ancestors from the dragon, Kenderax, and they have continued to trust completely in it. Detect spells are still not allowed by divine casters. It is believed that if evil is to be punished it must reveal itself in an obvious manner first. The temple in Balin’s Holt is large enough for two times the 6,000 people who live there and services are attended by almost everybody in the city on every holiday and full moon.

Balin’s Holt has a port on the Black Lake where trade is done with the other small towns to the north and with the large cities to the south. The lake is black because of the charcoal deposits created during the Titanomachy just upriver. This doesn’t taint the water, but instead acts as a filter for the water making it very clean. The people of Balin’s Holt are offended at the smell of most people in the rest of the world because they bath at least every three days. The charcoal also fertilizes the ground near the lake making Balin’s Holt’s crops larger and juicier than any other city’s. The specialties of the town are root vegetables and squash.

A thieves guild was formed in Balin’s Holt by Terry. It was sanctioned by the town as long as they did not steal from anybody poor, were seen while stealing, or if any tax money was taken. Since Terry’s death and Balin’s eventual departure from the council the thieves guild has become more of a scientists guild. They are no longer allowed to steal things in any way at all. The thieves now research new technologies that will benefit the public.

Many works of art are produced in Balin’s Holt. The city’s most famous piece is in the center plaza. It is a large painted marble miniature of the battle in which Kenderax was slain. The whole thing is fifty feet in diameter with each man in it being about a foot tall. Other masterpieces can be seen throughout the city and many people who wish to be artists for their trade come here to be indentured.

Recent Survey on Attitudes Towards Jews

One of my Jewish friends posted a New York Times article on Facebook recently.

The article is about a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League over the past year and released last week on world-wide attitudes towards Jews.

I encourage you to look at the survey results yourself at this the link.

The results can be looked at in an interactive Javascript or in PDF labeled as “Executive Summary” at the top right of the page.

The results were a lot of fun to look at, but nothing was particularly surprising.

The main point of the survey was to discover demographic information about anti-Semites.

Anti-Semitism was gauged by seeing if people surveyed thought 11 statements about Jews were “probably true” or “probably false.”

The statements are all vaguely anti-Semitic. If a surveyed person answered “probably true” to 6 or more of the questions then the survey considered them anti-Semitic.

The results of the survey show that the greatest predictor for anti-Semitism is location.

Anti-Semitism is common in the Middle East and North Africa, probably because Israel is an an enemy of practically every country in the region.

No other region of the world had high rates of anti-Semitism, but the highest besides the Middle East and North Africa were Europe and The Americas.

Europe and the American continents were likely higher because of legally supported anti-Semitism in the past.

The data supports that conclusion as well, with older people “from the past” having higher rates of anti-Semitism than younger people.

One of the facts discovered by the survey that interested me most pertained to education.

In most of the world, a higher education level correlated with a reduction in the rate of anti-Semitism.

In the Middle East and North Africa, a higher education level correlated with an increase in anti-Semitism.

I’d figured more education would universally reduce anti-Semitism, but I guess that isn’t true.

My first thought was that there might be something wrong with the education system in the Middle East and North Africa.

When I thought about it more a different idea seemed more plausible to me.

In an area with lots of anti-Semitism, people are rewarded for being anti-Semitic (social rewards, career advancement, etc).

If someone becomes educated, they’ll realize that being anti-Semitic is advantageous and exhibit the behavior more often or to greater degrees.

This also leads to avenues for reducing anti-Semitism. Make it so the behavior isn’t rewarded and it will stop.

Course, the means of doing that in regions where anti-Semitism is deeply entrenched are a mystery to me.

Regardless, the survey has a lot of cool data in an easily accessible format. I’d suggest looking at it yourself and talking about what you found!

-Mister Ed