Content Warning: this post contains references to fictional religions and gods.
In the world of Afion, there are (currently) 36 divine thrones. The beings occupying those thrones make up the Pantheon of the 36, the largest single religious system on the planet. There are other deities and pantheons, not to mention Dragon “Cults”, but the 36 have remained the dominant theology (even back when they were just the 24).
I’m not going to get too deep into the whole shebang about how the 36 came to be in this post. What I’m going to talk about is the god Linnik-Erkthanian, or Erk for short.
Erk started as a throwaway gag. A random NPC that popped up when the party wanted a name. The party was travelling and was stopped by a group of highwaymen armed with rusty short swords. Clearly they were no match for the party, but instead of simply going stabby-mode, the party decided to talk to them. The leader was a man named Erk. He continued going on about how, “No. No. We ain’t bandits. We’s farmers who’s down on our luck, is all. Crop was real bad, wasinnit?” The party let Erk and his band go, with a stern warning that there was to be no more banditry on this stretch of road. If they heard of any, they would be back. And so, Erk tipped his cap to the party, and they thought that was that.
But I’m not one to waste a gag, nor am I to forget when my players put me on the spot and demand I give a random NPC a name. Erk was amazingly too sly of a mind for me to just ditch. I just knew there was more about this farmer turned bandit than even I realized at the moment.
A few months later, the party had to embark on a journey that required them to cross the sea. They heard of a ship they could charter, and were greeted by Captain Erk, who was definitely not a pirate, no sir. He was also very adamant that he was not the same man as the farmer/bandit they had met months earlier in-land. This her was Erk the Sea Captain (who was in no way a pirate). That other fellow was clearly his cousin Erk the Farmer. He took them where they needed to go, collected his payment, then sailed off. The players were rightfully confused. They all remembered Erk the Farmer. Why in the wide wide world of sports had Erk reappeared, using the same name but claiming to be someone else?
And it was after that second appearance that my mind starting trying to figure out several things:
Who was Erk?
Was that the same Erk?
What was going on here?
Then it dawned on me. Erk was a god. And not just any god, but a trickster deity whose domains were agriculture and fishing, as well as banditry (both on land and sea). Reasoning being, 1st Erk wasn’t entirely lying. Drought and bad crops could drive desperate farmers to desperate measures. It wasn’t like that crew was really out to murder anyone, just collect enough coin to get them through the lean times until the crops did better next season.
What made Erk unusual, is that during that era of Afion, there were no gods. The 24 had “died” and left the remnants of their power in 24 sacred artifacts, including the Scythe of Linnik-Erkthanian, which one of the party members possessed.
So how did Erk exist? Simple, really. Erk was a primal deity. So long as their were farmers and fishers who left an offering at crude shrines for a good harvest or catch, the spark of Erk maintained.
Erk would show up a few more times before the party put two and two together on the names. I mean, I literally spelled it out for them, but there was a lot to keep track of.
Erk would make appearances in later games, but in a different capacity. I eventually tied him in “burning man” harvest lore, so one of his physical manifestations was a person with no features whose body was made of solid fire. He became a patron of farmers, fishers, and thieves. A rather unusual combination that would produce some bizarre alliances in the setting.
Despite all the detail in Erk’s development, he started as a one-off joke. That’s it. Just a kind of goofy NPC that posed no real threat to the party.
So, enjoy your game. Take inspiration when it comes and run with it! And players, just know that anyone you meet on the road could turn out to be a god further down the line.