I've already reviewed Charles Ross's One man Lord of the Rings show, and what amazed me most about the performance is how Charles Ross managed to immediately let you know who it was he was portraying on the stage, even before he opened his mouth to speak. Just by moving his hands in a certain way or crouching you knew exactly who was coming up next. That could translate into defining specific characters in a roleplaying game.
For example, when the character of Gandalf was about to speak Charles would stand with his hands holding an imaginary staff. With Legolas he ran his fingers through his hair from temple to breast as if straightening it. You knew Denethor was next when he put the palm of his hand on his forehead and pushed down, giving himself a severe darkened look. A GM could do the same thing to give his NPCs some kind of individuality – scowl continuously when the Baron speaks, or hold onto an imaginary staff when speaking to a wizard, or pull down the cheeks when the necromancer wants to speak. Couple this with identifiable accents and vocal ranges and you might not even have to introduce the NPC by name. There may come a time when you push forward your ears and begin to speak in a gruff, lisping voice and the players say ‘its Michael the night watchman!’
Not only that but the way Charles Ross enhances imagination with noises and grunts – his vocal special effects were very effective, not in all cases but the majority of them. His grunting Orcs, his wailing Nazgul and even his bellowing Oliphaunts were incredibly effective and helped carry the atmosphere.
Watching Charles Ross mimic these sounds, give every character in the show a visual cue and switch between them so effortlessly gave me plenty of hints on how to make my own NPCs much more individual and identifiable. Of course, I won’t be flinging myself about the room with as much vigour, but there’s plenty I can do from the waist up.