The majority of NPCs in fantasy RPGs will be peasants - poor, cowardly, degenerate, covered in shit, and nearly worthless when it comes to mighty deeds, conjuring firestorms, and wielding godlike power. That's just how things work.
Is this where the PCs started from, as well? Originally, I was thinking DCC and zero-level funnel characters, but really this random table would work for D&D, Warhammer, Pathfinder, Crimson Dragon Slayer, and any grim/dark or low-fantasy medieval setting.
Ok, so what you want to do is roll 1d3 for each character. That's how many times you're going to roll on the following d20 table. If you get the same result multiple times, you can either elect to "double down" on that particular result or re-roll.
How Much of a Peasant Are You?
1. You wear urine-soaked rags.
2. Your best friend is a rat named Vermilion (or Templeton).
3. Your sister is the 4th or 5th most popular prostitute of your village.
4. You live in a cardboard box.
5. You're in debt 1d4 x 100 gold pieces.
6. You're barefoot and can't afford shoes.
7. You can't read or write.
8. You play a musical instrument so badly that it hurts people's ears.
9. Even your dirt has dirt on it.
10. Everyone can smell you from a mile away.
11. Your most prized possession is a small grayish-white rock.
12. At the first sign of violence, you go into the fetal position (lasts 1d4 rounds)
13. You have a gambling problem and lose way more often than you win [disadvantage on games of chance].
14. Your shoes (or bare feet) are covered in shit - to the point where they can't be washed clean by conventional means.
15. Your body is covered in boils.
16. You are literally starving - emaciated and weak from malnutrition [disadvantage on anything strength related].
17. Your back is scarred from countless lashes of the whip.
18. You have 2d6 teeth remaining.
19. You have a severe speech impediment.
20. When it comes to survival, you're one unlucky bastard [disadvantage on saving throws].
Update: As your character levels, his peasant traits go away. I suggest a rate of 1 trait / level.
As always, if you use this in one of your games, please let me know. I love hearing about tales from the table!
Authored by Venger Satanis