By definition, urban settings in fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) are filled with people. Generally, only a handful of the non-player characters (NPCs) in a given city are likely to be sought by the heroes, so the remaining inhabitants are reduced to “generic townsfolk” status.
There is nothing inherently wrong with generic townsfolk living in an RPG setting. Having prominent NPCs quickly enter the story helps the players distinguish between NPCs who are clearly to be part of the story and the nameless NPCs who won’t. It also helps the players avoid wasting time and energy on an NPC that won’t be able to further the plot.
But it is important to remember that the background details make an RPG setting more believable to players, and having such details on hand – even if the players never ask for them – is part of being a well-prepared dungeon master (DM).
The following list of physical and behavioral descriptors was compiled so that a DM can provide better physical descriptions of generic folk with a handful of percentile rolls. Whether in response to a hero stopping passerby to ask questions or just to provide better background imagery when describing a street scene. Continue reading