In one of our last RPG sessions, I had the gang run into a few (NPC) refugees fleeing from the lizard army that is decimating the area. I wanted the NPCs to have some personality, and who knows, maybe one or more of them would be important in the upcoming sessions, but I didn't want to put that much work into it. I mean, just coming up with some names was hard enough.
Fortunately, I have my deck of Short Order Heroes, put out by Calico Games. I picked up a copy at one of the last Strategicons here in LA, since these guys are locals. I love the artwork, it's very clever and often cheeky. These cards can be used to run its own game, as I witnessed when I brought my 5-year old daughter to a con and we joined in a round of kids playing. I mean, it was a game where the players ranged in age from 5-11, and the GM was like 11 years old. It was awesome:
That said, I didn't use the cards in that fashion, but in another way it can be used, which is to generate personalities. I write down 4 names, place the minis next to them, and in front of my players draw 2 cards each, and voila:
Now they can start addressing various NPCs, and instead of the me having to pre-plan or remember personalities, it's all laid out there. I'm sure there are many times you'd want to pick the cards behind "the GM screen" (not lay your cards on the table, so to speak), and have the NPC personas come out in play. In our case they had decided to take the refugees along, and we made the next day or so an "interlude" where we assumed they sort of got to know the folks. In that sense this helped since this was effectively how they would have quickly judged the NPCs, but still leaves plenty of room to play different personalities, needs, wants etc. And it helped me quickly define their professions to suit. Tara is fierce and loud. Great, I made her someone who can watch herself, brags a bit, underestimates her foes and the PCs. Lert is foolish and organized. OK then, he's taken on the role of "leader" for the refugees thus far, but only in name, and doesn't really know how to make any good survival decisions. And so forth.
And while I mention my first use of these cards in games, I will bring up that there are a few more days, as of this post, for their next Kickstarter: Short Order Heroes Theme Packs.