Reading through the Chimera roleplaying system rulebook, I came across this nifty little chart for quickly generating NPC personalities.
Two D12 rolls, one on each column, give you a range of random, unique personalities.
I love the possibilities. The interplay of those two simple elements is really fun. Even seemingly contradictory results — maybe especially those — can get the creative juices flowing. I rolled up Cheerful + Violent, and already I can imagine just what this cheerfully violent person would be like.
Also, notice that it’s arranged in order from negative to positive in terms of how these attributes are generally perceived, and in terms of how likely they are to be helpful to player characters who are interacting with said NPCs — so you can apply modifiers to the roll to reflect the kind of place they’re in. Now that’s thoughtful design.
I’m thinking Far Western should include something like this. It could be just as helpful for PC creation as for NPCs.
If you’re looking for a setting-agnostic system that focuses on giving you the tools you need to start a game in whatever setting, time period, or technology level strikes your fancy, Chimera seems like a great one to try.
The Welsh Piper website also has tons of great campaign building tips and such.