I came up with a simple list of 'One Line' NPC's. Basically each NPC is described in the simplest of terms (Location, Name, Race, Occupation, Description, Character). Enough information is available for the GM to portray a seemingly 'real' character and form the basis of a more detailed description if that NPC becomes more important to the unfolding story.
Here are a few examples of Simple NPC's I have used in my own game:
- Market, Eyrion, Dwarf, An entertainer, Thin, Talkative
- Market, Yarenrian, Human, Peddler, Scarred, Knowledgeable
- Market, Qarrian, Dwarf, Poet/minstrel, Stout, Very Helpful
- Citadel, Ilonrian, Human, Guardsman, Filthy, Arrogant
- Citadel, Atjtur, Human, Guardsman, Tough looking, Quiet
- Palace, Malanyon, Elf, A groom, Well dressed, Knowledgeable
- Palace, Quanuard, Human, A noble, Very obese, Calm & Aloof
- Trade Quarter, Errian, Human, A Fletcher, Young, Likable
- Trade Quarter, Malwen, Human, A glassblower, Neat, Morose
- Trade Quarter, Quanam, Elf, Innkeeper, Refined features, Friendly
For me the biggest advantage of a prepared list like this is consistency. I can craft some simple characters that fit with their location and the message I want to convey. This sort of NPC is easy to prepare, quick to develop and helps give a location a sense of 'realness'.