This is an excerpt from my Firefly Hurtlin Through the Verse V2 RPG on how to generate NPC’s quickly. Although the examples are geared towards the Firefly setting, it is easy to use in an style of game. I’ve found this kind of thinking has helped me with my NPC’s over the years.
Not all NPC’s in Firefly: Hurtlin’ Through the ‘Verse need to be stated out and have gear. If the NPC is involved in a shootout or victim of a player shakedown/mugging, give them some mundane gear or a few nice trinkets.
NPC personality and personifications do not need to be overly complicated or detailed. Often times NPC’s will fade to the background with time but the gems that stand out will be remembered and the players will actively seek them out again and again.
Make notes of the NPC’s that the players seem to react to and make sure you pop them back in again here and there for better or for worse. Also as a GM give the players initiative on which NPC’s they would like to see again. Ask them after each session what particular NPC’s they enjoyed and would like to see and then make a note of it.
Remember if a player is engaged and wants to see one of your NPC’s again, you’ve done something awesome and should be excited that they are looking to interact with that character again.
Here is a Quick and Dirty formula for NPC’s that is pretty easy. Give the NPC two or three descriptive words, what they do, sex if you so desire, and a motivation/goal. Even if the goal does not go along with the current adventure/circumstance it can come into play at a later date.
Here are a few examples:
Quick and Dirty NPC’s
Traits and Goals
Fat, sweaty, and sly male Used Starship Salesman- To make a profit to keep the loan sharks from breaking his legs and taking his business.
Wiry, anxious, and asthmatic male Accountant- To just be able to make some friends for a change.
Buxom, Fiery, and proud female Cortex Reporter- To get to the truth of a story no matter the cost.
Ragged, Stubborn, and mean spirited male Rancher- To make his son respect him gorramit!
Determined, courageous, and lean female Starship Captain- To keep away from the alliance, turn a profit, and earn a living on her terms.
Dedicated, Loyal, and boxy male Alliance Solder- To reclaim his pride after reacting cowardly in a confrontation.
Charismatic, red headed, with a winning smile female Info Broker-Find that pinch of info that can really turn the tables.
Adventurous, deadly, and stern female Merchant- There’s money to be made in almost any situation.
Happy-go-lucky, smarmy male Card Shark- Keeps hoping his wife will love him.