It Builds Character: Character Development Techniques in Games talks about techniques to make characters that your players can relate to. It provides some simple-to-implement techniques to aid in the creation of interesting characters and their relationships.
The Tarot card idea is actually pretty cool, and I’m sure if someone uses cards from other decks, like Uno or Fluxx, they could come up with some very unique ideas for characters. The Tower, a Reverse, and Squishy Chocolate?!? You could create a down-on-his luck thief who decides to be good from now on. At some point, when he can’t stand his hunger any longer, he comes across a chocolate bar but gets caught trying to steal it since it was sitting in the sun for too long.
Ok that didn’t work so well, but hey, I didn’t actually deal those cards nor was I really trying. B-)
Mock conversations and character webs are also good ideas. In fact, I think it would be cool if games would come with these things as part of the extras, similar to what’s on DVDs. I remember reading a Super Mario World strategy guide that I received through my Nintendo Power subscription. It was really cool to seeing designs of the game series complete with sketches of Mario on a dinosaur years before Yoshi came along. I imagine that storyboards and sketches could be combined with mock conversations and character webs to make great behind-the-scenes footage for a game, especially if the developers act out the roles of the characters. At the very least, they could be really funny.