For a quarrel of neophyte wizards to undertake such an exploration unaided would mean quick and messy death, so they've brought along mooks to help them out and spread the risk around a bit.
Folks who've gamed with me know that I think index cards and RPGs go together like a bulette and a holiday in The Shire (messy, amusing, an ultimately more satisfying then you would have guessed) and I use them for cities, maps, tables, character sheets, spells, books, and whatever else I can think of, so of course I knocked together a quick NPC card for each of the mercenaries tasked to accompany the spellcasters.
But how to keep them from being generic?
First, pick some faces that come with a bit of recognition ("Oh, that's the quiet guy ... and he's the goofy one."). Photos of music bands fit that bill.
Then a quick one-line motivation on the back of each card was just the trick!
- To become the one in charge
- To finally forget her
- To feel like that again
- To see if the dream was true
- To die a rich man
- To prove them all wrong
- To kill the man who killed her
- To show them I was right all along
- To earn a hero's welcome
- To seek my fortune
- To find a way back
- To earn her admiration
Boom! Quick-build memorable and distinctive NPC mooks.
What tricks have you used to create those rank-and-file NPCs without them just being flat and generic?