The few peasant cottages have been here for decades, but it was only last year when a splendid large manor has started to grow, built by craftsmen from the town a day's journey away. The location is not bad, but so distant it doesn't make sense for a wealthy merchant to live here - but that is exactly what happened.
The explanation followed soon enough. Due to a little cartographic oversight just recently discovered, this spot of earth officially belongs to both lord's lands bordering to it. Because of the strict laws of the kingdom, no lord may tax the lands of another, effectively making this a land of no taxes!
Englbert, a wealthy merchant has jumped on the opportunity when it presented itself, and now keeps much of his possessions here, where they cannot be milked for their worth. Of course, a simple agreement could put an end to this, but the noble families hated themselves with passion for centuries, and this issue only fueled their latent grievances.
1. The Entrepreneur - Englbert is exactly what he seems, a businessman that does not like his money to be taken by others. Staying most friendly with both families, he will make sure their conflicts do not stop one day, and will enjoy himself on his own property in the mean time.
2. The Caller - in an ancient prophecy of some kind, it is clearly written:
Place of all, place of none,
that will be this creature's home.
The jovial merchant is trying to call/summon/create some bizzare monster/demon/whatever, which is as bad news as you can make it.
3. The Not-What-He-Seemed - well, yes, he is an agent of another power, and this all is an elaborate setup to entangle the families into more conflict. Either a neighboring lord would like to gain more lands, or it is a foreplay to war with another kingdom.
All options should offer plenty of plot-hooks, and job opportunities on all sides of the conflict.
This is an experiment in designing adventures in a format similar to that of the short 'Tales of Terror' plots that have been used in horror-themed games. In this format, a short adventure setup is followed by three different explanations, each leading in a different direction.
Those interested in seeing the original 'Tales of Terror' using this format may wish to go to Steve Hatherley's website: http://www.talesofterror.net
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I could see this happening, but I can't see the man getting away with it for long.
There are plenty of ways that this little incident could launch several adventures.
There are many ways to prolong the situation, but you are right. What I can see as a (semi-)final solution are secret agreements with both families, that the merchant will pay a symbolic amount to one family, while annoying the other - and everyone will be happy (well at least until they find out).
Simple but nice-Merry Christmas. 4/5
Very cute, Idea 1 is my favorite. I imagine the word leaking out and then dozens of people settling there and posing a real problem.